Illinois House 84th District Democratic nominee: Stephanie Kifowit
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Democrat Stephanie Kifowit is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 84th district Illinois House race. She faces Republican Patty Smith in the general election.
On Oct. 4, Kifowit appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why she’s running for the office.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Kifowit submitted the following responses:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Kifowit: I interact with the public on a constant basis, and by going door-to-door, holding community meetings and working with the youth advisory council; I make resident initiatives my priority – some of these were helping parents with students with Autism, addressing concerns with the PUNS list, youth advisory legislation from our council, supporting our local theater and protect consumers against questionable on-line ticket brokers.
In addition, I hear a lot from the local Veteran organizations and I am working hard to reduce/eliminate Veteran suicide and ensure our Veterans are properly taken care of. In addition to providing support for our local domestic violence shelter and continue to advocate against sexual predators and abusers. This year I also worked with the BGA to eliminate “golden parachute” payments to outgoing disgraced administrators who collected hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars after being relieved of duty under questionable circumstances.
Please list three concerns that are highly specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to some local issue that must be changed.
Kifowit: Education funding reform is a very important issue in my district, in addition to continue to advocate for better funding for our schools. In addition to ensuring there is property tax reduction for our residents, which was included in the new school funding formula. In addition, it is important to all families that we ensure individuals with pre-existing conditions receive health insurance in addition to reducing the price spiking of prescription medications that people depend on. Finally, as a USMC Veteran, ensuring there is proper funding for all our Veterans under the care of our Veteran Homes, and improved access to health care and mental health services for our Veterans in addition to providing job training resources.
Who is Stephanie Kifowit?
She’s running for: Illinois House of Representatives, 84th District
Her political/civic background:
- United States Marine Corps Veteran
- Member of various Veteran organizations
- Member of various Chamber of Commerce organizations
- Active supporter of Mutual Ground Domestic Violence Shelter
- Former Girl Scout Leader
- Former 3rd Ward alderman, City of Aurora
- Currently the Chairman of Government Transparency Committee
- Vice Chairman of General Services Appropriation
- Member of Higher Education Appropriation, Local Business Incentives, Mental Health and Insurance committees.
Her occupation: Full-time legislator
Her education: B.S. Political Science, Masters of Public Administration NIU
Campaign website: stephaniekifowit.org
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Kifowit: I am a USMC Veteran and have dedicated my life to service, to my country and to my community. I am dedicated to including the residents in my district by hosting five open forums every month and listening to their concerns and issues. I am very passionate about not only ending Veteran Suicide, but I have been active to enact legislation to try and prevent youth suicide. I advocate for those with disabilities by hosting a Disability round-table every year, proposing legislation to adjust the PUNS list, and fought to maintain funding for Early Intervention. Many of the legislation I have passed into law have come from residents in our community, and I will continue to have an open door and embracing policy. I have not taken a free meal from a lobbyist, I don’t have a fancy license plate and I did not accept a pension. I am a full-time legislator.
Illinois is now the sixth-most populated state, down from No. 5, after 33,703 people moved out between July 2016 and July 2017. What must the Legislature do to make Illinois a more desirable place to live?
Kifowit: Over the past years, our University and College system has taken a 67% cut in funding. We need to strengthen our University and College system in addition to funding training programs that are important to business. For example, under the prior administration ETIP (Employee Training Incentive Program) was funded at a healthy level; during this administration is has not been funded. We need to fund programs that provide job training and education for our state. In addition, we need to properly fund our K-12 system to lower property taxes and ease the burden on average working families.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Kifowit: Over the years, Illinois has paid its full pension payment and we need to continue to do that. I have looked at many models, and the consensus is that the pension ramp, which was enacted decades ago must be re-amortized and flattened out to a level expenditure every year (similar to an installment loan) towards paying off this debt.
From 2000 to 2016, the number of Illinois residents who enrolled as college freshmen outside the state increased by 73% (20,507 to 35,445). Why are so many more Illinois residents going to college elsewhere? What should be done to encourage more of them to go to school here?
Kifowit: Uncertainty created by the budget impasse contributed to this situation. Illinois should focus on properly funding our University and College system in addition to supporting trade and skill training. In addition, we found that restoring funding for MAP grants and funding it on a four year basis will most likely help retain students. The largest drop of students is “no college”. We have a large number of students who are accepted to schools and do not attend because of various reasons. We need to provide outreach and affordable options for students of our Universities and Colleges.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Kifowit: Gun Violence increased in areas where funding was cut for prevention programs. We need to invest in access to job training and opportunities for youth. Outreach programs to youth in high crime areas must include access to mental health and chronic trauma treatment of help children have the tools needed to not engage in gang or violent behavior. Consider these startling statistics from SAMHSA:
- 26% of children in the U.S. will witness or experience a traumatic event before they turn four.
- Young children exposed to five or more significant adverse experiences in the first three years of childhood face a 76% likelihood of having one or more delays in their language, emotional, or brain development.
- Youth in detention have experienced an average of six traumatic experiences before detention.
- We need to recognize the direct correlation between chronic trauma and violence in addition to its affects of how children learn.
On-demand scheduling software now helps large retail companies determine how many staff members they will need on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. The downside is that employees may not receive their work schedules until the last minute. Oregon and a number of cities have responded by adopting “fair scheduling” laws. Would it be appropriate for the Illinois Legislature to pass a “fair scheduling” law? Please explain. What would such a law look like?
Kifowit: I believe parents want to be involved and active in their children’s lives; in addition with having to plan routine appointments such as doctors appointments. Last minute schedules are difficult to manage for the employee and focuses only on the immediate needs of the employers without any regards to the well being of the employee or their families. I believe that there needs to be a fair scheduling law, such as those provisions included in HB5046.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Kifowit: Currently there have been many hearings on this subject by the General Assembly and I trust that this subject will be carefully vetted and analyzed before it is put into a final bill. I will continue to meet with residents from the district and continue my independent research as well.
Opioid overdoses and fatalities continue to rise in number. In Illinois in 2017, there were 13,395 opioid overdoses, including 2,110 deaths. What should the Legislature do, if anything, about this?
Kifowit: In the past, I have supported the Heroin-Crisis act, which expands treatment and requires insurance companies to provide more access to care. Recently, I supported the legislation to reduce the dependency of opioids by allowing prescriptions for opioid pain killers to be converted for medical marijuana. As a member of the Mental Health Committee; I believe we need to invest in quality mental health, addiction treatment and job training for individuals.
The Future Energy Jobs Act, passed in 2016, is generating job growth in renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. Do you agree or disagree with the objectives and substance of the Act? What more — or less — should be done?
Kifowit: I supported this Act, and believe that there are many opportunities such as these to embrace the job opportunities of the future, such as green energy jobs. We need to continue to be vigilant to ensure we reduce pollution and protect the environment from polluters.
What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? What is your view on managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries?
Kifowit: I was a cosponsor of HR100 which passed with overwhelming majority to audit the Medicaid MCO’s. There have been significant lack of transparency with the MCO’s in addition to the biggest non-competitive contract awarded to MCO’s and heard from many residents of excessive denials of needed medical proceedures. In addition, a recent audit finding revealed questions with regards to the monitoring of more than $7B in payments to the MCO’s. In short, I think there has been increased costs with regards to the changes and a complete investigation needs to happen to assess how to better monitor and hold the MCO’s accountable to put the health of the residents first before the padding the profits of their organizations.
Underfunding at the Department of Corrections has led to troubling findings by the auditor general that many inmates don’t receive services or opportunities for work while incarcerated. Is this a legitimate concern? What should the Legislature do?
Kifowit: The legislature is working towards the goal of properly funding corrections by passing two balanced budgets after the years long impasse. However, we need to ensure that we have proper level of staffing to ensure safety for everyone, in addition to evaluating the programs that can have a positive effect of reducing recidivism while getting training and education to reintegrate into productive members of society. We need to work towards providing positive programs for as many qualified inmates as possible.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
I believe that any criminal justice reform needs to include all stakeholders, including local law enforcement and victims advocates.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.