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Democrat Biss Attacks Rauner Over Chicago-Downstate Wedge

State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, in the GLT studios on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

Democratic candidate for governor Daniel Biss took aim at Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday for trying to “drive a wedge in the middle of Illinois” over school funding and urged his own party to avoid nominating its own billionaire to challenge Rauner next November.

Biss, a state senator from Evanston, was in Bloomington-Normal on Wednesday. Biss stopped in downtown Bloomington to receive Mayor Tari Renner’s endorsement and later spoke with teachers at the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University.

In an interview with GLT, Biss said he expects lawmakers and the governor to ultimately reach a deal on the new evidence-based school funding formula—currently the subject of another Springfield stalemate—before schools open next month. Biss said Rauner is “embarrassing himself” by continuing to play downstate against Chicago in the dispute over Senate Bill 1, which Rauner partially supports.

Biss earned some attention this week when he tweeted a photo of Rauner’s printed-out remarks on the school funding dispute, all marked up in red ink by Biss—a former math professor.

“We’ve fallen into this ugly trap of dividing Illinois,” Biss said during GLT’s Sound Ideas. “I don’t live in McLean County, but my life is better if McLean County schools are properly funded. That’s important to me. Frankly, I think life in McLean County will be better if Chicago schools are properly funded too.”

In his GLT interview, Biss covered wide-ranging policy issues and his work as a legislator.

He also addressed the Democratic primary election in March, when he’ll be pitted against Bob Daiber, Scott Drury, Chris Kennedy, Ameya Pawar, and J.B. Pritzker. Pritzker, a billionaire, is widely seen as the only Democrat with enough personal money to challenge the wealthy Rauner.

Biss, meanwhile, has shown some fundraising strength. He raised more than $1 million in the quarter that ended June 30—more than several of his rivals.

“If they need a really rich guy, I’m not the guy. If you’re looking for a billionaire or millionaire, I’m not your guy. I live an ordinary middle-class life. If that’s what the Democratic Party thinks we can’t handle anymore—then you better vote for somebody else. I just don’t think that’s where we are right now.”

Democrats won’t benefit long-term by running only wealthy candidates, Biss said.

“Guess what? Democrats are going to run out of billionaires first,” he said. “If we want to be successful in the long-term, we need to use people power, not billionaire power.”

On other issues:

Higher Education: The state’s declining investment in higher education is “insane” and “utterly destroying our long-term economic viability.” Biss wants to invest more state funding in higher education and “properly” fund Monetary Award Program, or MAP, grants.

Income Taxes: Biss wants to move to a progressive income tax, meaning your tax rate would vary based on your income, instead of our current flat tax.

Legalizing Marijuana: Biss wants to fully legalize marijuana. Our drug laws are enforced unevenly, he said, and legalization would allow the state to deal with marijuana as a public health issue. If taxed, it would also create more revenue for the state.

Term Limits: Biss supports term limits for legislative leaders and the governor.

Listen to the full interview with Biss below:

GLT's full interview with state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston.

Watch video from Biss' appearance with Renner on Wednesday in Bloomington:

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.