The only downstate Democrat running for governor made a stop at Eastern Illinois University this week to speak with students and members of the public ahead of the March 20 primary.
Bob Daiber is an EIU alum, having graduated with a Master of Science in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Education in the late 1970s. Returning to the campus on Thursday, he said he’s been bothered to see the state’s public universities decimated in recent years.
“I was here in the heyday, in the ’70s when this place was booming and it bothers me when I read about the declining enrollments and it bothers me because of the impact it has on the economy, not just here but at Carbondale, at Western and Northern and everywhere,” said Daiber. “We’ve had an administration that has turned it’s back on higher ed and we have to rebuild.”
To do that, Daiber says he would do two things: Fund universities at 2012 levels and encourage more research at universities across the state to make them more attractive for students to attend.
Daiber went on to say the most pressing issue for Illinois is paying its backlog of bills.
“We cannot be first in anything in the state, we cannot attract business, we cannot attract students if we can’t pay our bills,” said Daiber. “Today we have about $8.9 billion in unpaid bills.”
To address the backlog, Daiber said he would refinance the state’s debt, or bond the bills, which would help the state avoid paying as much in interest payments.
“Put that debt interest into a manageable budget, move forward with a budget and pay off the principal over a set number of years,” said Daiber. “But stop the six to seven percent interest payments.”
Daiber also said he believes a progressive tax should be implemented and that loopholes that allow individuals to pay nothing in income tax should be closed. Those measures along with refinancing the backlog of bills would generate about $2 billion in additional revenue, claimed Daiber.
Daiber lives in Marine, Illinois. He has served 38 years at city, township and county levels of government, including as the current regional superintendent of schools in Madison County.
He said that experience is what gives him the upper hand on his opponents.
It’s also what has helped form his policies. Daiber says if elected, the first budget bill he will sign is for public education.
“We shouldn’t be funding schools last,” said Daiber. “We should be funding them first.”
Daiber also explained his other positions including his opposition to service taxes and fracking and his support of raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour and legalizing recreational marijuana through a referendum.
He said Illinois should also implement a state-wide marketing program to promote what the state has including transportation networks and agriculture.
“The current governor’s current marketing plan is, ‘Don’t come here. If you’re here, leave as fast as you can because we have high property taxes. We have high workers’ comp. This is not the place you want to stay and raise a family. Get out of here.’ That’s not true.”
Daiber says a similar marketing plan in southwestern Illinois has helped land several businesses including Amazon’s largest warehouse in the midwest.
Daiber also fielded dozens of questions from just over a handful of people who were in attendance.
When asked if he thought he had the money to beat Rauner, assuming the incumbent governor defeats primary challenger Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), Daiber said he will know following the March 20 primary.
“If I win the primary, the money will come,” said Daiber. “And I will have the money to beat Bruce Rauner. And it’s beyond money. It’s character and ethics that will beat Bruce Rauner. And I am the candidate that will get the independent voter.”
Daiber is one of six Democrats seeking the nomination in March. The other five candidates are Robert Marshall, Tio Hardiman, Daniel Biss, J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy.
But as Daiber is quick to point out, he is the only downstate Democrat running.
“If you complain after November of 2018 as to who is governor because we have another Chicago politician, you made the decision, you made the decision that you did not want someone outside of Cook County to be governor,” said Daiber. “I don’t believe we should be a one-county controlled state.”
Contact Keith Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-347-7151, ext. 132.