When Illinois lawmakers increased the personal income tax rate to 5 percent last year, they gave it an expiration date -- 2015.
One of three Democratic candidates for state representative in the 84th House district says she would not vote to extend the 5 percent income tax past 2015, when it is set to decrease to 4 percent. The other candidates, though, say it's too soon to take a stance on the issue.
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Stephanie Kifowit, a 40-year-old Aurora alderman and substitute teacher seeking the Democratic nomination in the March 20 primary, said income taxes should begin decreasing when lawmakers said they would.
"I'm for the state keeping its word," Kifowit said. "I'm not for extending the tax increase past the date that it's supposed to expire because that was a promise made to the public."
Candidates Carole Cheney and Alex Arroyo both said they can't decide yet if the 5 percent income tax should be extended because they can't predict what the state's budget will look like in three years.
"I am uncomfortable making any sort of pledges, strident pledges one way or the other ... on a tax issue," said Cheney, a 51-year-old Aurora attorney. "Right now I do agree we should hold the expiration of the tax increase and then assess the situation."
"I consistently say we need to address the information in 2014," she said. "I don't pledge ahead of time to commit one way or the other because we need to see the state's situation at that time."
Arroyo said he would prefer a progressive income tax as opposed to a flat rate if the state's financial situation requires continuation of the income tax increase. But the 42-year-old flight attendant from Aurora said all that depends on the how Illinois' financial future shakes out.
"I feel that if the state's financials are in trouble, we should look at reconsidering keeping it going," he said. "If the state's in better shape, let it expire."
The personal income tax rate was increased from 3 to 5 percent, a 67 percent increase, in January 2011 during a lame-duck legislative session. None of the Democratic candidates for the 84th district said they would refrain from addressing an important topic such as the income tax rate if it comes up during another lame-duck session.
"The U.S. Constitution does not prohibit lame duck sessions, nor does the state constitution," Arroyo said. "You're elected to serve until your term expires."
Kifowit said she would not support any measure rushed through during a lame-duck session without enough time for to research and analyze the matter. But if the issue received enough time and discussion, she wouldn't rule out voting for it.
"I assure you that I will never take an uneducated vote on the General Assembly regardless of the timing because I think that my job as a state legislator is to be informed, is to work very hard on the issues," Kifowit said.
Instead of delaying votes on significant matters, Cheney said legislators should look to avoid political timing and "pushing things to a lame-duck session."
"I think whenever possible, these hard issues need to be addressed during the time the lawmaker is directly responsive to constituents," Cheney said.
Kifowit, Cheney and Arroyo are looking to represent the newly drawn 84th district, which includes parts of Aurora, Naperville, Montgomery, Oswego and Boulder Hill.
The winner of the March 20 primary will face Republican Patricia Fee of Aurora in the November general election.