DECATUR — Daniel Biss, one of a handful of Democratic challengers to Gov. Bruce Rauner in next year’s election, made his case Thursday as a progressive candidate, focusing on taxes.

Biss, a state senator from Evanston, made his case during two stops in Decatur on Thursday morning: a roundtable discussion at Richland Community College and a visit to the Good Samaritan Inn.

A good portion of Biss’ roundtable discussion focused on his income tax plan: doing away with the flat tax and reduce burdensome property taxes.

“This is the most important thing that we can do,” Biss told the dozen people in attendance. “Ours is the most regressive income tax of any state in the union. It’s tilted toward the rich and against the middle class and poor residents.”

Such action, which would create a bracketed tax system in which those who earn more money would pay more taxes, would require a constitutional referendum. Illinois is one of four states that only allows for a flat tax.

Other Democratic candidates have come out in favor of a progressive tax, but Biss said he is the only one who has spent years publicly supporting the measure. If elected, he said he would be fully committed to spending “the several years necessary” to getting the referendum on the ballot, which would require three-fifth support in both Illinois House and Senate.

Biss is a former mathematics professor at the University of Chicago. He served in the Illinois House representing the 17th District before being elected to the senate in 2012. He represents the 9th District, which covers the northern suburbs of Chicago.

Biss also took time to reflect on what he saw as the failures of Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic Party to address what he said is growing economic inequality.

When asked by attendee Anthony Chapple about the influence of Chicago politicians and House Speaker Michael Madigan, the longtime leader of the House and frequent target of Rauner and the state Republican Party, Biss said Illinois has a greater problem.

“The problem is the system,” Biss said, adding that no one wins when downstate and Chicago are pitted against one another by politicians. “A stronger Chicago makes a stronger Decatur, and vice versa.”

Other Democratic candidates include businessmen J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, state Rep. Scott Drury, Madison County School Regional Superintendent Bod Daiber and Chicago community organizer Tio Hardiman.

Biss made reference to the two frontrunners, Pritzker and Kennedy, during the roundtable, acknowledging he’ll never outspend the millions of dollars Pritzker has put into his campaign or have the name recognition Kennedy has as a nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of U.S. attorney general and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy.

Biss said he will continue to “outpeople” those candidates by bringing out grass-roots Democrats and those moderates and Republicans frustrated by the current political system.

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Staff Writer

Government-watchdog reporter for the Herald & Review.

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