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Illinois House District 19, Democratic Primary

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The questions

All candidates were invited to respond to questionnaires, although not all chose to participate. Click on a candidate's name to see the unedited response to each question.

Biographical information & experience
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick
Birthdate: 2/28/1966
Occupation: Attorney/ Finkel, Martwick & Colson, P.C.
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Sharon Martwick

Education:

I received my J.D. from The John Marshall Law School in 1996. Prior to that I spent a year in graduate studies in economics at DePaul University in 1992. I received my undergraduate degree from Boston College in 1988 (Bachelor of Arts in Economics). I attended Loyola Academy high school.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Norwood Park Township Regular Democratic Organization
The Norridge Improvement Party
The Village Economy Party
The Chicago Bar Association
The Polish National Alliance
The Advocates Society

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

Yes
Norwood Park Township - Trustee 1993-1997
Village of Norridge - Trustee 1999-2011
Assistant State's Attorney - The Cook County State's Attorney's Office. 1997-2001

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

I worked as a prosecutor in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, 1997-2001.

In 2005, I produced a Newsletter for the Village of Harwood Heights. I have had no other contracts with government, nor has any of my family members or business partners.

Stoppa
Birthdate: Did not respond
Occupation: Chicago Police Department
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Michael Sardo

Education:

Associates Degree in Applied Science-Criminal Justice
Bachelor's Degree from Calumet College- Degree pending graduation in August- currently on the President's list

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Fraternal Order of Police- Chicago Lodge 7

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

No

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

None

Campaign information
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick

Campaign headquarters: 4962 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Website: rob@robertmartwick.com
Campaign manager: Scott Cisek
Campaign budget: $125,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Robert Martwick - $5,000
Gloria Martwick - $5,000
Sharon Martwick - $5,000
William Colson - $5,000
Martha Lavelle - $5,000

Stoppa

Campaign headquarters: 5953 N. Elson ave
Website: www.citizensforstoppa.com
Campaign manager: Rae M. Paterno
Campaign budget: $20,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Myself and my brother

What are your top priorities for your district?
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    Martwick
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Martwick

1. Job Creation. The Northwest side of Chicago has been particularly hard hit by the recession. I would seek to implement proactive plans to spur the growth of new manufacturing jobs.
2. Economic and Small Business Development. The district has large stretches of commercial storefronts that have been closed due to the economy. As small business plays such a crucial role in the overall role in the economic health of the 19th district, I would seek to expand the scope of small business assistance provided by the state and use my office, in conjunction with other elected leaders in the district, to create a proactive small business assistance program.
3. State budget responsibility and transparency. The residents of the 19th district need a renewed confidence in their government. They do not need another series of promises made for political gain. We must work to educate our citizens about the scope of our financial problems and be completely transparent about the realities of what it will take to make Illinois financially sound.

Stoppa

I was born and raised in Chicago and have lived in my community all my life. I have 4 children; 3 go to Chicago Public Schools. I want to do what best for my family and my community. Our public education must be properly funded; money for students, not administrators. Our Police and Fire Departments need to be replenished; you can do more with less when it comes to public safety. We need to create an environment that attracts business and stops chasing it away; businesses create jobs and much need revenue for our community.

I will work on reforming our TIF program. This is a program that needs to be addressed. Each year, Chicago pours approximately $500 million taxpayer dollars into numerous TIF accounts around the city. This is property tax money that is diverted away from our schools and parks; money that could be used to hire more police officers and firemen. The concept of the program is sound and helps to stimulate business growth. It just needs to be reformed in a way that automatically gives money back to the taxing bodies (schools, parks, etc.), but still allows a portion of it to be used to help small businesses.

What is your top priority for the state?
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    Martwick
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Martwick

Solving our budget issues. Our government has created budgets without any real plan or vision for the future. In order to "balance" budgets, they have borrowed against our pension funds and delayed payment to education and state vendors. I believe that we can solve our budget problems with a defined plan. I would begin by demanding a line-by-line audit of the budget to eliminate waste and fraud. Next, I would also propose and support a Prioritized Funding Plan, which would set out the State's essential funding priorities (such as funding our employee pension plans, education, infrastructure needs, and debts owed to vendors) and would require that every future budget meet these requirements before any money can be used on less important projects. Finally, I believe that we must accurately identify our revenues on an annual basis, budget to spend no more than the revenues we take in, funding essential services and cutting programs that do not work.

Stoppa

It's been said repeatedly and I will say it again here. The state of Illinois does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Illinois is the 5th wealthiest state in total income, yet we are on the verge of bankruptcy; that doesn't make sense to me. We need to take a hard look at how our state is spending money and make the necessary cuts. We also need to stop chasing businesses out of our state.  


Both small and large, businesses bring us much-needed jobs and revenue. Unfortunately, Illinois is at an extreme disadvantage; we have higher state and local taxes than any of our border states. Federal data shows we have lost an estimated 228,000 people and $26.9 billion in cumulative gross income to our neighbors in Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky.

For incumbents, please list your accomplishments. For challengers, what unique strengths would you bring to the job of state lawmaker?
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick

1. I am a lifelong Democrat with a history of involvement in the Democratic Party. I have given a great deal of my time helping candidates seeking public office, including recently helping Toni Preckwinkle win the County Board Presidency. I am a loyal, but independent democrat who will always support the Democratic Party's principle's of standing up for the working men and women of our state. Conversely, my opponent not only has no history of involvement in the process, but when she has voted, she has only ever voted in Republican primaries, supporting candidates who would place the values of the wealthy over the values of working families.

2.I have 16 years of experience in local government. I recently retired from the Norridge Village Board after 12 years. During that time we operated a small, efficient and effective government. We provided and exceptionally high level of service to our residents for a minimal cost. We did this by providing for the essentials and focusing on efficiency. While most local governments, during this recent economy, have been struggling to keep solvent and have made deep cuts to essential services, Norridge has maintained a very high level of service and is in very good financial shape.

3. As an attorney and former prosecutor, I understand the nature and process of creating legislation. I will be effective from my first day as a legislator until my last.

Stoppa

I am a mother of four, the wife of a U.S. Marine and I have been protecting the citizens of Chicago for more than 14 years as a Chicago Police Officer. Our community needs a Representative who comes from our middle class community; someone who can relate to their situations and someone who will put their interests first.

I am that candidate and I will not be a rubber stamp for the current elected officials who have brought our state to the verge of bankruptcy.

The state public employee pension system is severely underfunded and paying down the debt threatens to crowd out spending on core state services. Do you support reducing pension benefits not yet earned through a bill like SB512, which offers state workers three options for earning future pension benefits. Should police officers and firefighters be included in a reduced pension system?
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick

I do not support Senate Bill SB512. Current employes have acted according to an expectation that a certain level of pension benefits would be available to them upon their retirement. Illinois made promises and they should be honored. Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution prohibits reducing pension benefits for current employes. As such, I would support a two-tiered pension system, where all new state hires would be part of a new plan that would lower pension costs to the state. I believe that public safety employees should have a separate pension plan, although I would support creating a second tier plan for new public safety hires as well.

Stoppa

The new attack on the working family comes in the name of "Pension Reform". One of the many reasons our pension system is falling apart is because of abuse by politicians. After decades of bilking the system for their own personal gain, our elected officials are trying to convince taxpayers that public pensions are the cause of our state's problems. They would have you believe that the front line employee is somehow "greedy" and should give up those "out of control" pension benefits.

SB512 violates our State Constitution and would only end up costing the taxpayers unnecessary legal fees to defend it in court.

If you don't support a bill like SB512, how would you deal with the state's unfunded pension liability?
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick

As I mentioned in the previous answer, I believe that the Illinois Constitution requires that pensions for all current employees must remain intact. As such I would support a plan that would place all new employees in a second pension plan that would lower the overall cost to the state. Additionally, there are studies that suggest that a full 100% funding level is not fiscally responsible, and that a somewhat slightly lower level (70-80%) of funding is more than adequate to cover all obligations without the risk of insolvency. I think Illinois should conduct a complete study to assess what level of funding would be adequate to accomplish the goals of a secure pension system while lowering the burden to current budgets, and create a feasible long term plan to meet that level.

Stoppa

The system needs to be reformed, but it needs to be reformed in the right places. For example, a State Representative becomes eligible for pension benefits after just two 2-year terms in office? After four years in office the amount of time it takes to become vested a current legislator becomes eligible to receive a pension of 12 percent of his/her salary, along with 3 percent increases if retiring after age 60.

That pension payout spikes to 27 percent of salary after 8 years of in office, 45 percent after 12 years of service and finally the maximum 85 percent after 20 years.

To show my commitment to this office, I vow that if elected, I will NOT take a pension as State Representative! I am also asking that ALL of our elected officials at the City, County and State levels take a stand and make the same pledge. It's time for true pension reform. It's time for career politicians to give up their bloated political pensions. These are the pensions that need reforming, not the modest pensions of the average public employee.

This is public service. There should be no pension whatsoever for politicians. Public service should be just that, service; not a path to riches.

Do you want the 2 percent point income tax increase to expire in 2014, as planned, or would you like to see the tax increase extended beyond 2014?
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick

I want the tax increase to expire as planned. However, that will require a big improvement in the Illinois economy and a serious reform of our budget. I will work tirelessly to accomplish these two points. However, we must always be financially RESPONSIBLE. No legislator wants to vote for a tax increase, but in times like this we owe it to our citizens to be honest and transparent about the scope of our problems. Under no circumstances will I put our pension obligations at risk of default, nor will I stand by idly should our state become insolvent. The job of solving our budget crisis will be tough enough. We need straight talk about the realities of what the state must do to remain financially viable.

Stoppa

I would like to see the 2 percent point income tax increase expire in 2014.

Do you support any changes to the corporate income tax rate? Do you support any other changes to the state's business tax structure?
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick

We need to completely overhaul the entire Illinois tax code to maximize revenue and ensure equity. We cannot be forced into granting tax breaks to corporations based on threats of leaving Illinois. I would seek to create a corporate tax codes that sets out defined circumstances under which a corporation can qualify for incentives.

Stoppa

We need to reduce our corporate tax rate to make Illinois more appealing to business to want to set up shop here. Like I said, it's the spending that needs to be controlled in Illinois.

What should the state government do to create a more favorable business climate and to promote job growth?
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    Martwick
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Martwick

The strongest economies are those based on manufacturing. I would support a tax code that is structured to encourage growth in Illinois' manufacturing sector, specifically the manufacturing of high-tech, and high-quality goods. These types of industries support good paying jobs. As such, I would support a very defined set of circumstances under which a corporation can qualify for tax incentives., with the strongest incentives tied to the creation of new, manufacturing based jobs, paying a living wage or higher salary.

Stoppa

Lower taxes to be competitive with our neighboring states.

Lay out your plan for paying the billions the state owes schools, universities, human service providers and others. Would you support borrowing to pay down those bills?
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    Martwick
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Martwick

Our state debt has become a huge burden on the state. I support making the payment of these debts one of the top priorities in my Prioritized Funding Plan. Additionally, there must be an line-by-line audit of the budget in order to ensure that we are eliminating every instance of waste and abuse, as well as an honest performance-based assessment of the programs that we do fund. Those essential to our state should take top priority and those that are not effective must be eliminated. I would also seek to dedicate all new and unanticipated revenue towards paying down these debts.

Stoppa

I do not support borrowing to pay down our debt. There are many ways to reduce spending to help get ourselves caught up. I support the idea of competitive grant funding proposed by the Illinois Policy Institute that would save over $200 million a year. I also support their idea of eliminating the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity that will save taxpayers.

State legislative leaders are trying to give the General Assembly a role in negotiating contracts with state labor unions. What is your opinion of that?
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick

It is the responsibility of the executive branch to negotiate contracts. However, as the State Legislature ultimately must approve the budget expenditures contemplated by these negotiations, it would make good sense, if permissible, for the legislature to have representatives present during the negotiations, even if the role they play is only advisory.

Stoppa

Did not respond

The legislature has tried repeatedly to expand gambling in Illinois. Do you support expanded gambling in Illinois? In what form? Do you support a Chicago casino?
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick

Gambling opportunities exist in almost every corner of our daily lives. There are video poker machines at the corner pub, lottery tickets at every convenience store, and casinos everywhere (including next door to my district in Des Plaines). I think it makes little sense to believe that random limits on the expansion of gambling has any real effect. If someone wants to gamble, there are many options at that person's disposal. Additionally, it is fairly clear that political considerations play a big role in the granting of new casino licenses. As such, I believe that gaming expansion should be permitted, but limited by the residents nearby that would be affected. Citizens should be allowed the opportunity to vote on a referendum before a casino license or video poker license is granted in their community.

Stoppa

I support a Casino for the City of Chicago. Every year, millions of Illinois dollars are lost to Indiana's nearby casino. With a Chicago casino, this lost revenue could be recaptured and used to help replenish city pension funds that are severely underfunded. Moreover, a high end Casino in our downtown area would certainly be a draw for tourism, and would create hundreds of much needed jobs for our residents.

Would you seek any changes to the state ethics and campaign finance laws? Would you support capping what state party leaders can donate during a general election?
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick

Yes. The campaign finance reforms that were passed have had little positive effect. An individual has been limited to how much money he can contribute to a candidate, but the party leaders are allowed to donate to a far greater extent. I believe that we should limit the money that state leaders can contribute to candidates. This would create greater transparency in the funding of campaigns and would lessen the influence that leadership has on their members.

Stoppa

Campaign financing is one of the biggest problems with our political system. It allows special interest groups to influence our elected officials. We took a step in the right direction this year when we reduced the amounts that could be donated by individuals, corporations and political action committees, but we did not go far enough. The same caps should apply to the amounts that can be contributed to a political party and the amounts that state party leaders can contribute.

We need to level the playing field and try to take the money out of politics (I know that sounds ridiculous, but we should try).

Would you back a constitutional amendment to shift from a flat income tax to a progressive income tax system?
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    Martwick
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    Stoppa
Martwick

Yes. Under the current 5% flat tax, middle income families in Illinois pay a far higher tax than do those families in most states. By the same token, wealthy Illinois residents pay a lower tax than in most states. I believe that a graduated tax would be more equitable, placing a greater share of the burden on those who have the ability to shoulder it. It will provide a lower tax to working families, while increasing overall revenue to the state.

Stoppa

No

Do you have a plan to adequately fund schools and reform the property tax system that results in inequities?
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    Martwick
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Martwick

I would support removing the burden of funding education from property taxes and shifting it to income taxes. However, this plan must be carefully crafted to ensure that the overall taxes paid by working families do not increase. There must also be provisions that accounts for corporate tax breaks. If we shift the burden to income taxes, we must prohibit corporations from receiving tax breaks on that portion of their income taxes that is earmarked for education.

Stoppa

The State of Illinois needs to focus on cutting wasteful spending to ensure that we have adequate resources available to protect educational funding. Our children must have the resources they need to reach their full potential. And these resources should be spent in the classroom, not on school administrators. It has been proven that spending in the classroom produces better results than spending on administrators; yet we have no system in place to determine how personnel expenses are distributed. I will work to ensure that financial resources are directed to the benefit of the students.

What is your view on gay marriage?
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Martwick

I believe that the State of Illinois should respect the right of all of its citizens to engage in civil marriages, without discrimination based on sexual orientation. I also understand and respect the right of religious institutions to limit consecration of marriage according to their beliefs and would make no attempts to require them to do anything contrary to their tenets.

Stoppa

I support civil unions and believe gay couples should enjoy the same rights as any married couple in the state of Illinois.

The race
The candidates
Robert F. Martwick Jr
Sandra Stoppa
The district
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