Biss calls for state pension funds to divest 'dirty energy' investments

Biss calls for state pension funds to divest 'dirty energy' investments

CHAMPAIGN — State Sen. Daniel Biss on Friday criticized hotel heir J.B. Pritzker, the front-runner in the Democratic gubernatorial race, for being an investor in a pipeline company that built the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline from North Dakota to southern Illinois.

Biss, in Champaign-Urbana to campaign with state Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana, also displayed his environmental bona fides by calling attention to his support for maintaining the Mahomet Aquifer and by calling for Illinois pension funds to divest from investments in fossil fuel.

The Evanston Democrat said that Pritzker's partnership interest in Energy Transfer Partners, the company that built and is a part-owner of the nearly 1,900-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, "is a striking fact for someone who claims to be running on a pro-environment platform."

"It just shocks me. It's an issue that is so emotional for so many of us and touches on basic questions of environmental protection and safety of water and sanctity of native lands," Biss said.

"I was really surprised, and I thought it was something that people ought to know about," Biss said.

He also said he believes "Illinois should divest its pension funds from investments in dirty energy."

"First, because it's the right thing to do. Because it stops our public dollars from investing in activity that is disruptive, and also because I think it's the right investment.

"Over time, I think we're going to find that the clean-energy economy is taking off and that it's going to be a mistake for the returns and assets to the pension funds to be invested in a old, dirty energy economy."

His plan would cover fossil fuel, he said, and not nuclear energy.

"We'll be laying out a specific policy over time. You've got to be careful how you do it. It requires real caution because it's a significant change but it certainly would be for all retirement funds," he said.

Biss also portrayed himself as the candidate of progressive Democrats and not of the party bosses, most notably House Speaker Michael Madigan.

"I think we all know that the Democratic establishment, frightened by Rauner's money, has decided that the only solution is Pritzker's money. I think that's a catastrophic mistake," Biss said. "I think it's a mistake when it comes to remembering what the Democratic Party is supposed to be about. I think it's a mistake when it comes to preserving a healthy democracy. And I think it's a mistake when it comes to winning elections.

"If I were Bruce Rauner, what I would most want is to run against another billionaire. What I would most want is to run against a candidate chosen by Madigan. And I think the Democratic Party has an opportunity to choose someone different, to choose someone who presents a contrast, to choose someone who will motivate Democratic voters to turn out."

Rauner would want Pritzker as his opponent, Biss asserted, to depress voter turnout.

"If he can make the fight about 'You're a billionaire'; 'No, you're a billionaire' or 'You've got money offshore,' 'No, you have money offshore'; 'You avoided this tax,' "No, you avoided that tax,' it would be depressing for everyone.

"You've got a preview of that already as the two of them go at it. It's the most depressing thing in the world."

Biss also said the answer to fixing Illinois' pension debt is to eliminate the state's flat income tax, enact a graduated tax and to continue to make pension payments on time.

"I think we have to make the payments. And we have to make them in a way that is actuarially responsible. And we have to do it every year," he said. "That's the core brokenness that got us here — that, for generation after generation, we paid one year and not the next year or we'd futz with the assumption so we pretend that we're paying the right amount when everybody knows that we aren't.

"So we need to have progressive revenue sources to be able to fund our pensions systems properly, and to have a mechanism that we make those payments every year."

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Local Yocal wrote on January 13, 2018 at 9:01 am
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Biss is going to be unpopular with the well-to-do talking that progressive tax smack. I'd like to hear Biss on what he plans to do about the overcrowded, do-nothing prisons we have in this state. I'd like to hear Biss talk about what plans he has for formerly incarcerated people as to what they will do for work and housing. I'd like to hear Biss discuss the funding of Medicaid patients. I'd like to hear Biss discuss where new jobs in Illinois are going to come from. I'd like Biss to discuss how he plans to keep higher education funded and social services funded when the pension system alone is underfunded by $130 "billion" (is it?) 

But then, there's only so many talking points you can cram into speech less than an hour long. 

JB vs. Rauner is "the most depressing thing in the world"? Try being homeless in Illinois. Now that's the most depressing thing in the world. 

Local Yocal wrote on January 13, 2018 at 9:01 am
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GLG wrote on January 13, 2018 at 9:01 am

Typical liberal, Biss is a member of the same legislative body that created the pension mess. He should sponsor a bill to increase the state income tax and use all of it to fix the pension "crisis", Or maybe a new Illinois Lottery game, That has worked wonders for the Illinois schools, hasn't it ? The Illinois Supreme Court told the legislature the same thing, "You have the abiltity to raise taxes and you have not" Governors and members of both party's for years took the pension money and spent it on everything but the pensions, State employees made everyone one of the their bi-monthly payments while the crooks in Springfield gave the money away! With the economy growing at the rate it is why would anyone sell off profitable stocks from their portfolio for a feel good moment? Biss is supposed to be some kind of educated math expert, He sure isn't acting like one! He will be listed as an also ran in the upcomming governors race. Graduated income tax? How about a flat 5% where everyone including business and  welfare recipients pay?? Maybe if they paid they might look closer at who they are voting for and would think twice about who would spend it wisley instead of who is giving the freebies away that the rest of us pay for!