On Jan. 17, educator Bob Daiber appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Democratic nomination for Illinois Governor in the March 2018 primary:
I’m Bob Daiber. I’m currently regional superintendent of the schools in Madison County and been a countywide elected official for 10 years. I’ve served on a city council. I’ve been a township supervisor and a county board representative. I’ve been very active in local government for the past twenty years.
Main priority is to make the state of Illinois financially sound and we need to pay down our backlog of unpaid bills and develop a manageable budget to move the state forward. I believe the candidate for governor needs to be someone who can unite the state of Illinois. I’m from southern Illinois and I believe that my candidacy helps connect all of Illinois together.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Daiber submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
Candidate’s note: These are some interesting questions from the Sun-Times editorial board. In general, Illinois has suffered from an unwillingness to face our problems and deal with them. We’re looking for easy answers, or a miracle, or magic fairy dust, but we cannot wish away our $130 billion unfunded pension liability, for example. My answers below are intended to be practical. In many cases, we won’t be able to turn Illinois around in one year or four years. But our next governor must get the state pointed in the right direction.
TOPIC: Key challenges
QUESTION: What are the two biggest problems facing Illinois and what would you do about them?
ANSWER: 1. A backlog of unpaid bills – including the pension liability – has halted progress in Illinois and made the state less attractive to residents and businesses. 2. Lack of responsible funding for public education.
Illinois must be fiscally responsible and pay its obligations to vendors and government entities. This will require further bonding of the debt. As governor, I will establish a budget that will pay the interest and principle for unpaid bills in three years.
I will work to revise the state’s tax structure to correct the revenue shortfall by 2020. Our current tax structure is not only regressive, but revenue does not grow with the economy. It doesn’t even keep up with inflation.
I will prioritize education as my first funding appropriation bill.
Running for: Democratic nomination for Illinois Governor
Political/civic background: Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools (2007-present), Madison County Board member (2002-07), Marine Township supervisor (2001-present), Trustee—Village of Marine (1997-2001)
Occupation: Educator/Elected official
Education: Doctorate of Education (Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville, 1990), Master of Science in Education (Eastern Illinois University, 1979), Bachelor of Science in Education (Eastern Illinois University, 1978), Associate of Arts (Belleville Area College, 1976) Triad High School, Troy, Ill. (1974)
Campaign website: bobdaiber.com
TOPIC: Red ink and taxes
QUESTION: Even after raising the personal state income tax rate to 4.95 percent, Illinois has $9 billion in unpaid bills. The state also must pay billions of dollars over the next 12 years to service the debt on $6 billion borrowed to cover previous unpaid bills. That’s a problem. What’s your solution? Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a higher income tax?
ANSWER: I support refinancing the debt. We owe this money already. We might as well get vendors paid, which is good for the economy, and get lower interests rates, which will save the state money.
I am for a progressive income tax, which would keep income tax the same or even reduce it for low- and moderate-income earners, while raising the tax on the well-to-do. My progressive structure tops out at 6 percent for income over $1 million, which still makes personal income tax cheaper in Illinois than in any neighboring state except Indiana.
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TOPIC: Underfunded pensions
QUESTION: Illinois has $130 billion of unfunded pension liability. Do you support re-amortizing this debt? Do you support a constitutional amendment that would reduce the liability? Please explain.
ANSWER: Illinois enacted pension reforms that took effect with new workers joining the system starting in 2011. These are “Tier 2” members. As “Tier 1” members push through and retire and die, costs will go down, but obviously this will take decades.
Illinois does not tax retirement income; I believe retirement income should be taxed at a rate of 1 percent, with revenue designated to fund the pension systems. I do not support reducing the pension benefit. However, I am open to pension reforms to prevent abuse to the system and to increase participant obligations.
I am against a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to skate away from its obligations. The state should not be a deadbeat, even if the Constitution were changed to allow it.
TOPIC: Gun laws
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Should family members be empowered to petition the courts for the temporary confiscation of guns from mentally or emotionally disturbed people who may be a danger to themselves or others?
ANSWER: I support the right of citizens to own guns under the Second Amendment and the McDonald and Heller decisions. However, that right can and should be regulated for public safety.
I support a state ban on gun silencers, or at least on their possession outside firing ranges. I support funding gunshot detection technology. I support gun dealers being licensed. I have stated I would sign S.B. 1657.
I do believe family members should be empowered to petition the courts to have guns confiscated, but the petitioner must show evidence, and the respondent is entitled to due process.
QUESTION: As governor, how would you ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? Do you support continued Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act? Should the state continue on a path toward managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries? Should everyone be permitted to buy into Medicaid?
ANSWER: The state should continue on a path toward managed care for Medicaid. Ultimately, however, we must have a health care system for our nation that includes everyone. The solution to this problem is probably found in Washington, not Springfield, but we’ll do the best we can to get people covered.
TOPIC: Affordable Care Act
QUESTION: Under the ACA, 650,000 Illinoisans gained health insurance coverage. If the program is abolished or diminished by Congress, what action would you take, if any, to maintain health insurance coverage for these Illinoisans? Where would you find the money?
ANSWER: No matter what Congress does, I will work to expand community care health programs. This health service program will work in conjunction with state university health service facilities. The community care facilities will be coordinated by county health departments. The services will operate on a minimum fee base and may be covered by General Assistance, and Federal Homeless funds or a state appropriation.
TOPIC: College student exodus
QUESTION: Illinois is one of the largest exporters of college students in the country. What would you do to encourage the best and brightest young people in Illinois to attend college here at home? Does Illinois have too many state universities, as some have argued?
ANSWER: Research shows that quality state universities are essential to the economic vitality of Rust Belt states. If we allow our state universities to slide into mediocrity, we are probably finished as a state. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-rust-belt-economy-immigrants-college-smith-1229-20171227-story.html I’m sorry, this was printed in the Chicago Tribune.)
To reverse the exodus of students, we must re-establish trust in parents and students that our state universities are quality institutions. I recommend we begin by funding higher education at the Fiscal Year 2012 level. We must control rising tuition cost for in-state students.
TOPIC: University oversight
QUESTION: Failed or fired public university presidents have received big payouts. Do you have any plans to consolidate or otherwise reorganize governance of the state’s university system?
ANSWER: The failure to hire excellent presidents was a shortcoming of the university trustees who made the selection. As governor, I will appoint individuals to serve as trustees who are qualified and have a background in education policy. I have no plan to consolidate the state’s university system; however, I will review the governance.
TOPIC: Clean air regulations
QUESTION: The Rauner Administration has proposed scrapping limits on the rate of air pollution from a fleet of eight coal plants in central and southern Illinois owned by Dynegy Inc. Instead, the state would impose annual caps on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted by the fleet. Do you support this softening of emissions standards? If not, are you concerned coal plants could be closed and union workers could lose their jobs? Also, how would you support the adoption of clean energy, such as wind and solar, and energy conservation?
ANSWER: I am not in favor of scrapping the limits on air pollution standards from the coal plants.
In a meeting with the United Mine Workers in Benton, I was informed there are no union mine workers in Illinois (Ron Huff, UMW [11/8/17]). Therefore, I support coal research to maximize the use of this carbon-based mineral to manufacture needed products such as coke to make steel, carbon for carbon fiber, and other innovative uses.
I do support the adoption of clean energy and will work to expand the development of wind and solar energy.
TOPIC: School funding
QUESTION: Under the state’s new school-funding model, Illinois will need $6.2 billion more to fully fund K-12 schools. Will you commit to full funding? Where will you get the money?
ANSWER: Yes, I have stated that I will prioritize education as my first appropriation bill to sign, but we are not going to get to $6.2 billion in one year.
Initially, the money will come from top of the current state revenue. By passing a progressive income tax, additional revenue will be gained to fund public education.
TOPIC: Wage equality
QUESTION: What is your position on the vetoed Illinois Wage Equity Act?
ANSWER: The veto of the Illinois Wage Equality Act is unjust. I have advocated that Illinois should pass an Equal Rights Amendment that is encompassing of sex, wage, and racial equalities.
TOPIC: Roads and bridges
QUESTION: How do you plan to address Illinois’ huge backlog of infrastructure construction and repair needs, including for roads, bridges, waterways and mass transit? Do you support an increased gas tax — and/or other taxes and fees — to finance infrastructure improvements, including public transit?
ANSWER: I’m for a construction program for roads, transit and other public needs of at least $30 billion. I haven’t decided how to pay for it, though the motor fuel tax is a possibility. It’s 19 cents per gallon for gas (21 cents for diesel), and it hasn’t changed since 1993. That 19 cents, if adjusted for inflation, would be 33 cents today. Note as well that people are driving just as much as they did 25 years ago, but they are using less fuel, so the road needs are still there, but the tax revenue isn’t keeping up. Another possibility is a vehicle miles travelled tax, which is intriguing academically and probably fairer, but would be difficult to implement.
TOPIC: Displaced workers
QUESTION: Jobs in Illinois are being lost to high-tech automation and artificial intelligence. It won’t even be long before cars drive themselves. Meanwhile, many other jobs, notably in the retail sector, are being lost to online alternatives. Do you have a plan to help guide displaced workers into new careers?
ANSWER: We will need to retrain displaced workers for high demand careers. Currently, there is a shortage of welders, diesel mechanics, plumbers, and skilled maintenance employees. As governor, I will reinvest in technical preparation programs, and urge the private sector to partner with public high schools and community colleges to provide skill development. Likewise, I will encourage Workfare Investment Boards throughout the state to utilize available WIA funds for training the unemployed and underemployed.
TOPIC: Manufacturing jobs
QUESTION: Since the recession ended in 2009, neighboring states have added tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs while Illinois has not. What will you do to spur Illinois manufacturing?
ANSWER: As governor, I will work with the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) to provide incentives to spur Illinois manufacturing. Illinois must develop a marketing plan to advertise that Illinois is a viable place to do business. This marketing plan must be inclusive of workforce development data incentives, and a rationale for relocation. As governor, I will support the IMEC to assist in support measures for manufacturers of all size. We must realize manufacturing is changing in the 21st Century. It will not look like or employ people like it did in the 1950s. As the author of Manufacturing Today & Tomorrow, I realize one of our greatest opportunities is to attract small manufacturers that are interested in producing products that are consumed by Illinois businesses (e.g. agriculture).
TOPIC: Election funding
QUESTION: Record amounts of money are pouring into top judicial races in Illinois and across the country. Is this a problem? Do you favor the public financing of judicial races?
Yes, but I don’t think that will solve the problem. In all political races, especially judicial races, well-funded outside groups spend millions promoting their favored candidate or slinging mud at the opponent. With Citizens United on the books, I don’t think it’s legal to stop that, and even if Citizens United is overturned, wealthy individuals can still spend their own money on advertising affecting judicial races. There is no easy answer. A possibility is establishing a high standard of truthfulness for advertising affecting judicial races under which advertisers who bend the truth or deliberately mislead the voters would be fined three times the amount they paid to place their advertisement. We’re talking about our judiciary here. Even if politics in Illinois is often in the sewer, at least with judicial elections we should expect the same kind of truth that judges expect from witnesses in court.
TOPIC: Opioid crisis
QUESTION: What role does a governor’s power to commute sentences play in the overall effort to improve the quality of criminal justice in Illinois? Do you believe sentencing may have been overly harsh — or not tough enough — during the earlier years of the so-called “war on drugs?” And we now face a renewed war on drugs — this time opioids. Is the greatly increased use of opioids a criminal crisis or public health crisis?
ANSWER: Opioid abuse is a public health problem. Crack in the 1980s was a public health problem too. We as a society were wrong to treat it as a crime problem, the solution to which was to throw black people in jail. We can regret the economic and social consequences of our mistake of three decades ago, but we should not repeat our mistake with opioids.
We must fund Narcon because we must save the lives of those who overdose. We also have to reinstate DHS funding of treatment centers for addicts. A two-day hospital stay is not effective, either in terms of curing addiction or in terms of cost. Patients leave alive, blessedly, but they’re still in withdrawal. They will be back on the needle within hours. We must make long-term treatment available.
As governor, I will re-evaluate sentences for drug offenders. If their only offense was possession or delivery – that is, if they didn’t shoot anybody or burn down anybody’s house – I would consider commutation if they’ve already served an appropriate term.
TOPIC: A model gov
QUESTION: Which past governor of Illinois do you most admire and why? Which governor from any state would you most like to emulate?
ANSWER: I had my differences with Pat Quinn when he was in office, but he had the courage and persistence to do everything that everyone always said had to be done, even if it was unpopular: He raised the income tax, he closed under-used state facilities, he forced lawmakers to make a deal to reduce pension costs (which was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court), he made the legally required pension contributions – the first governor to do so in decades – and he got rid of the death penalty. We were paying down our debt under Quinn. He is honest and hardworking – an admirable man. Unfortunately, doing everything everyone always said we had to do wasn’t good enough on Election Day in 2014.
Check out our profiles on other candidates in this race: