In an interview, John Shaban, the Republican candidate for the 135th district of the General Assembly’s House of Representatives, discussed topics of local interest, challenges the next Legislature will confront, and the priorities he would have if elected.
The full video of the interview, above, runs 18 minutes.
“Sadly, it's the same challenges that we had when I got there in 2010,” said Mr. Shaban, who occupied the 135th district seat from 2011 to 2017.
Mr. Shaban said state government “has a poor fiscal policy,” with “a burn rate that’s too high.” He said the State raises more tax revenue every year but often runs deficits, which means “important programs we all want aren’t getting funded.”
Mr. Shaban was skeptical of the most recent forecast by State Comptroller Kevin Lembo of an improved State deficit this year, down from $2 billion to $1.2 billion, still a daunting figure. He added that, whatever the amount actually is, “the number of State employees is too high.”
Mr. Shaban criticized what he called a “dual delivery system,” where the State runs programs at higher cost than would be charged by private contractors, but still hires contractors.
“We just spend too much,” said Mr. Shaban, adding that change would cause fiscal pain, but not as much “if we let the private sector take over some of the public sector work.”
We asked Mr. Shaban if he foresees cuts to major budget areas such as Medicaid and aid to towns and school districts.
“They’ve been on the table for years,” he said, noting a history of reductions to educational cost sharing for towns in the 135th district.
“Frankly, nothing can be off the table,” he said, “but what shouldn’t happen is [reductions to services for] people we’ve made promises to.” He said Medicaid is “intertwined” with Federal funding, but dismissed the notion that Federal aid is actual help. Given how much Connecticut residents pay in Federal taxes, he said, “we’re just trying to get some of our money back.”
Mr. Shaban said the State made “decent tries” a few years ago to get Connecticut’s fiscal “house back in order,” but that more must be done.
Other priorities include maintaining local control of education and land use. He said regionalization is an attempt to “reinstitute the county government we got rid of in the sixties.”
Mr. Shaban said he worked successfully across the aisle to pass environmental legislation during his time in the General Assembly, and would like to continue building on it.
He said a “pet project” he worked on before was to change how funds are spent that come from unclaimed refunds for redeemable bottles and cans. Currently, those receipts go into the general fund through a mechanism called escheats. (We had to look it up too.)
Mr. Shaban wants those funds to be spent only for environmental purposes. He gave high marks to former Governor Dannel Malloy’s efforts to clean up brownfields, and would like more done to redevelop old factories “up and down our rivers.”
Health care costs
Especially with public attention on recent threats to the Affordable Care Act, we asked Mr. Shaban what he would like the State to do to reduce health care costs.
He said one measure would be to insist on “plan clarity,” so that health insurance policies are spelled out simply, in plain language.
He also said competition for health care policies across state lines would help, but acknowledged that only the Federal government can accomplish it.
Finally, he advocated for tort reform to make it harder to file medical malpractice suits in state courts.