- Position sought: State Representative, 84th District
- Political party: Democrat
- Website: www.stephaniekifowit.org
- E-mail address: email@example.com
- Phone: 630-499-8784
- Address: 409 E. Park Ave., Aurora
- Family: I have been married to my husband Steve for fifteen years and we have two children, Sabrina (age 14) and Samuel (age 9). The family is complete with Steve’s daughter, Alexandria. I am a proud step-grandparent to Alexandria’s sons William (age 5) and Jonathan (age 3).
- Education: Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Northern Illinois University, 1997; Masters of Public Administration, Northern Illinois University, 2003.
- Occupation: Substitute teacher, East Aurora District 131
- Related experience: Alderman, City of Aurora, 2003-present. As an alderman I have had many opportunities to advocate for my community. One of the more recent efforts that I am extremely proud of occurred last year when I worked with my local American Legion post to fund and organize Aurora’s Fourth of July Parade after the city had to cancel the event due to budgetary constraints. The event was a huge success and really showed that our community can accomplish a lot when we work together during these tough times.
What would your priorities be if elected to this office?
One of my top priorities is to get the state’s economy back on track and so it can start creating jobs. We need to make sure Illinois has a business climate that encourages companies of all sizes to grow and expand. Illinois also needs to take more steps to attract new businesses that will create good-paying jobs for families throughout the state.
I believe that my priority of getting the state’s economy back on track is closely related to another top priority of mine: 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.
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 sets you apart from the other candidates?
I have a unique background that I think is needed in Springfield. As a mother of two, I understand the daily challenges that families face across the state in making ends meet and ensuring our kids are safe and have access to quality education. As a substitute teacher I know the dedication that many of our teachers bring to the classroom every day and I also understand what the state needs to do to help make our schools better. As a veteran of the Marine Corps I have a real sense of duty to serve our community and I will bring a commitment to getting the job done in Springfield. As someone who has worked in financial planning and advising, I understand budgeting and know that the state needs some serious reform in order to get back on track. And as an alderman for the City of Aurora, I have helped create real jobs in our community and increased public safety. I plan on being a full-time state representative that will commit every day towards improving Illinois.
What should first be done by the state to keep businesses that have strongly voiced the possibility of leaving, such as CME and Sears?
I believe Illinois needs to take a comprehensive plan to improve our business climate by looking at the overall tax structure and committing to not increasing taxes on job creators. This is more productive than a piecemeal approach of offering different incentives to different businesses every week.
In light of recent tax breaks for large corporations, I believe the state needs to refocus on helping 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 these companies, because the jobs they provide are just as valuable as the jobs that larger businesses provide. I believe the state should provide tax cuts specifically to small businesses targeted at helping them expand and create additional jobs.
At the same time I think we need to stop corporations from holding the state hostage, 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 breaks they received. We have similar requirements in local agreements Aurora has made to attract businesses, and I would like to see the state take a tougher stance as well.
What can be done to help College Illinois?
I know there are a number of members in the General Assembly working on possible solutions to this problem, and I support the Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s proposal to form a committee of administrators, lawmakers and other experts to work on this issue. I look forward to seeing what the committee recommends the state do in order to not shortchange the parents that invested in College Illinois.
What should the government do to create more jobs?
I believe that both state and local governments should play a strong role in promoting economic development and job creation. Some ways to do this include providing tax credits and incentives to businesses that hire more employees and by making sure our tax code does not put too large of a burden on Illinois employers. At the state level, I support extending the state’s research and development tax credit and the net operating loss deduction. Here in Aurora we have provided incentives to companies like Peerless Inc, the Premium Outlet Mall and FHP-Berger in order for them to locate here. We also provided incentives for the expansion of the Central DuPage Hospital. I believe more must be done to encourage economic growth, especially in regard to getting our state’s fiscal condition in order so that there is a stable environment for businesses in Illinois.
What are your philosophies on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, and what should government’s role in those issues?
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 make her own choices regarding her reproductive health.
Do you support a gaming bill that would increase the number of casinos or other gambling venues in Illinois? Should a casino be built in Chicago?
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 suggest for property tax relief?
I support the effort moving currently forward in the General Assembly, Senate Bill 2073, which would freeze property tax levies during years when property values decline. Homeowners are continuing to have to pay more and more in property taxes even as the values of their homes decrease. I hear from voters at the door nearly every day about how the high property tax rates they pay make it difficult for them to make ends meet. In addition to freezing property taxes in areas where property values are going down, the state also needs to get its fiscal house in order and start paying our schools, local governments, and universities the money we owe them. This will help relieve the financial pressure on these local taxing bodies so they can keep property taxes as low as possible.
Should the state consider consolidating school districts? What would be the best way to accomplish this in your legislative district?
Considering our difficult budget situation I think all cost-savings options need to be explored. I hesitate to endorse such a plan without knowing whether school district consolidation will negatively affect our children in the classroom, but I do prefer to cut administration costs before any other education spending. While looking at consolidation, I think we also need to look at compensation levels for superintendents. I believe the salaries and benefits offered to superintendents and other top administrators are getting out of control. Should administrators really be making four or five times more than our teachers? Can we still hire quality superintendents without paying such extremely high salaries? The General Assembly needs to look into this issue, especially considering that many of these superintendents later receive state-funded pensions. We need to ask ourselves if the state is really in the fiscal position to be paying pensions for these superintendents that are worth over $200,000 a year.
Should the state legalize marijuana?
While I certainly feel compassion for those suffering from painful medical conditions, I do not support policies that would make illegal drugs more easily accessible and do not think Illinois should be superceding federal drug policies.
Are there ways to reform the legislative scholarship program, or would you support calls to eliminate the program?
I believe that the legislative scholarship program should be abolished, and I will not award these scholarships if the program is still in existence when I am inaugurated. The countless instances where these scholarships were given to well-connected children, political donors and even relatives of elected officials are reason enough to end this program.
Who are your political heroes and why?
I really admire our Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, for her commitment to protecting consumers. She is not afraid to go after big banks and other large corporations to force them to do the right thing. Considering how hard our area has been hit by foreclosures, I especially appreciate her efforts on combating deceptive mortgage and foreclosure practices. Lisa helped orchestrate a multi-state, $25 billion settlement from the nation's five largest banks that includes more than $1 billion in assistance to former and current Illinois homeowners. This money will be used to help Illinoisans who've lost homes, are at risk of defaulting on their mortgages, or owe more than their homes are worth. She is a great example of an elected official who works hard and really makes a difference.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony, sued successfully or had a restraining order placed against you? If so, please explain.