Stephanie Kifowit: Candidate Profile
84th District Representative (Democrat)
Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Office sought: 84th District Representative
Family: I have been married to my husband Steve for 15 years and we have two children, Sabrina (14) and Samuel (9). The family is complete with Steve's daughter, Alexandria, and I am a proud step-grandparent to her sons William (5) and Jonathan (3).
Occupation: Substitute teacher, East Aurora School District 1
Education: Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Northern Illinois University, 1997 Masters of Public Administration, Northern Illinois University, 2003
Civic involvement: I am a member of the American Legion - Aurora Post 84, the United States Marine Corps League, Women Marine League, Veteran's Breakfast Group, the American Society of Public Administrators, Illinois Municipal League, the Illinois City/County Management Association, the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Quad County African American Chamber of Commerce, Women in Government, Fox Valley Girl Scout Council, the White House Project, and Aurora Crime Stoppers. I currently help coordinate several area events, including the Aurora Independence Day Parade and the Annual Women's Power Lunch.
Elected offices held: Alderman, City of Aurora, 2003-present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
My number one priority is to get the state's economy back on track while creating jobs. We need to make sure Illinois has a business climate that encourages companies of all sizes to grow and expand.
We also need to make sure Illinois is taking steps to attract new businesses that will create good-paying jobs for families throughout the state.
Key Issue 2
I believe that my first priority of getting the state's economy back on track is closely related to my other top priority of reforming Illinois' budget. Many businesses and service providers throughout the state are forced to look at closing their doors or laying off employees because of how long it takes the state to pay what it owes them. A bloated state budget full of wasteful spending shortchanges taxpayers, state vendors and those who depend on state services. I will work to make sure Illinois government starts to live within its means, just like every family has to do when working with their household budget.
Key Issue 3
As both a mother of two children attending public schools and a substitute teacher, I understand the extreme importance of education to our community. We are lucky to have some quality schools in our area, and we need to work to ensure that our schools continue to get better. I will fight to make sure our local school districts receive their fair share of state funding, make sure schools get a share of any new revenues, and that the state helps to pay for any costly mandates it imposes.
What can you do specifically to help the economy in your district? What is your view of the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola Mobility, Navistar and Sears? For incumbents, how did you vote on the Sears plan in this fall's veto session?
In light of all of the tax breaks that have been awarded to larger corporations, I think the state needs to refocus its attention on how it can help small businesses. The 84th District contains a large number of small businesses, many of which are struggling through the recession. We need to do more to help small businesses, because those jobs are just as valuable as the jobs that larger corporations provide. I believe the state should provide tax cuts specifically targeted at small businesses that allows them to expand and create additional jobs.
While I am in favor of tax incentives that help keep vital jobs in our area, I think we need to stop corporations like Sears from being given large tax breaks and then closing stores and eliminating jobs. I will fight for stronger laws that require businesses that eliminate or move jobs out of state to refund the tax breaks they received.
Also, when we talk about tax relief we cannot forget about the working families of our area. Many families have to make do with a reduced income or job loss and cannot afford to keep paying more in taxes. I think middle class families deserve a break in order to help them make ends meet.
Do you favor limiting how much money party leaders can give candidates during a general election? If elected, do you plan to vote for the current leader of your caucus' Why or why not?
Illinois has made big strides when it comes to campaign finance reform with recently adopted legislation limiting campaign contributions.
I not only support these limits but believe more can be done.
We need to do more to take money out of politics and continue to increase transparency for voters.
My focus is on the issues that voters bring up to me every day at the door.
They want to know my thoughts about job creation, budget reform and education.
Very rarely does anyone even touch on the subject of who the caucus leader is.
How, specifically, would you cut the budget? What does Illinois need to do to fix its status as a "deadbeat state?" How have you or will you vote on future gambling bills' What is your view of slots at racetracks' Casino expansion?
The first thing we need to do to get the state on the path to fiscal responsibility is to adopt zero-based budgeting. The state can simply no longer afford to spend money it does not have. We need to focus on making sure we fund the core essential services that state government provides. Every year the General Assembly should review all programs and expenditures to make sure every penny of taxpayer money is spent wisely. Cuts will have to be made during this process. We can start with reducing the size of the state's vehicle fleet and cutting out the state's air fleet, but we will have to look at every option on the table
I support pension reform efforts and I believe that will go a long way towards stabilizing the state budget. I also believe that we need to block lawmakers from receiving pay increases to save the state money and force them to share in the sacrifice.
During my time as Alderman, Aurora became one of only ten Illinois Cities to earn an excellent bond rating because of its strong financial performance and management, which allows the city to receive better interest rates, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. I have stood up against wasteful spending at the local level. I will bring this dedication to fiscal responsibility to Springfield and work with both sides of the aisle to find common-sense solutions.
Recent figures released have shown that more established casinos are losing out in revenue to newer facilities. I am against expanding the number of casinos because I do not believe it will lead to more revenue for the state and will only hurt our local economy.
What do you specifically support to deal with the state's pension gap? Would you vote for House Republican Leader Tom Cross's three-tier pension plan? Why or why not?
I support pension reform, but I believe it needs to be done in a way similar to recent education reform efforts. We need to bring all stakeholders together to find a solution that is fair for both taxpayers and workers. We also cannot lose focus on the fact that we need to make sure the pension funds remain solvent so that the state can continue to pay out benefits employees have already earned. An important part of keeping the pension funds solvent is making sure the state puts in its full pension payment every year, which it has not always done in the past. Illinois has a pension payment plan in place, and the General Assembly needs to stick to that plan.
The legislature has taken some initial steps to root out abuse and fraud from the system, and I believe we need to continue these efforts to save the state money and reserve benefits for those who have truly earned them. There seems to be a new story every day about former legislators or lobbyists getting sweet pension deals that are worth far more than what they put into the system. This practice needs to stop; it is absolutely unfair to both taxpayers and state workers.
I have serious concerns about the constitutionality of plans that reduce current employee benefits and would like to see an explanation of how these plans do not violate the state constitution. I do not want to see the state involved in a drawn-out and expensive court case on this issue considering the state's current economic problems.
Should gay marriage be legalized? Should Illinois define life as beginning at conception as others have? How would you vote on a concealed carry firearm plan? Should the death penalty be reinstated?
Everyone should enjoy the same civil rights and no one should face discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
I believe the intent behind Illinois' recently enacted civil unions law has done just that.
I believe it is up to each woman, in consultation with her family and support structure, to define when life begins.
As a Marine Corp Veteran I am a supporter of our Second Amendment rights, but most voters in the 84th District have moderate views on gun control and are uncomfortable with allowing concealed weapons to be carried in public.
I am open to reinstating the death penalty, but only if strict safeguards involving the use of DNA evidence are put in place to ensure only those truly guilty of the most heinous crimes would be eligible.