John Shaban, a Redding Republican, is the incumbent in the race for the 135th House District post, challenged by Leon Karvelis, a retired businessman and Redding resident.
The 135th District includes all of Weston, Easton and part of Redding.
Mr. Shaban, an environmental attorney, said he is the father of three boys in elementary, middle and high schools, a husband of 20 years, and a partner in a small business — “so I understand what’s important to the folks in the district because I am living it.”
Mr. Shaban is a football coach for the Aspetuck Wildcats and a member of the Barlow Boosters Club. He is a former vice chairman of Redding’s Zoning Commission and former chairman of its Water Pollution Control Commission, which oversees the Georgetown wastewater treatment plant.
His “real-life experience and leadership with community volunteering” are pluses, he said.
His approach to government is to take a “from-the-bottom-up” approach, starting with “what’s good for families, businesses and local control,” Mr. Shaban said.
“The essence of being an effective legislator is knowing what laws to pass and what not to pass,” Mr. Shaban said. “I bring a practical approach. … So much stuff gets jammed into a bill, you often can’t support it,” he said. He would like to confine bills to a topical area.
“If it is a laudable bill that makes good public policy, I will look at it,” Mr. Shaban said. “It’s the proper role of government to look at bills to see if they would hurt more than they help or if it’s better to do nothing at all.”
He pointed to a move in the legislature for a bill to take back prescription drugs, but local police departments, including Redding’s and Weston’s, were already collecting these drugs. “We don’t need another government program,” Mr. Shaban said.
There was a bill in committee to require labels for genetically modified foods. The proposed bill “is legally flawed” and it “wouldn’t survive a constitutional challenge,” Mr. Shaban said.
He is a member of a bipartisan panel appointed by the governor to find a better way to address this issue, he added.
When it comes to the environment, Mr. Shaban said he is familiar with the issues because he represents both companies and individuals in environmental matters.
“I am in favor of smart, reasonable environmental regulations. A lot of people think the EPA [federal Environmental Protection Agency] and the DEEP [state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] bring businesses down. At the end of the day, the regulations are important and effective, but they must be reasonable.”
Mr. Shaban serves on the legislature’s Environment Committee as the minority assistant ranking member.
Although he does not have a Sierra Club endorsement, Mr. Shaban said if re-elected, he would work with the group, at its request, to re-institute the Republican caucus of the Sierra Club.
When it comes to the state’s fiscal issues, Mr. Shaban said he would put the focus back on the spending side of the ledger.
“The big picture is that we are taxing more people at higher rates and bringing in more tax dollars than ever in the past. We’ve had the highest tax increase in history, and we’re still running a deficit. Why?”
The answer, he said, is because of increased spending. The Democrats have run the legislature for 37 of the last 40 years, he said. “It’s the legislature that controls money in and money out.”
The legislature raised taxes and increased spending “upwards of 7%. There is not a small business in our state or country, save a few, who raised spending” nearly that much, he said, adding this is not a perfect analogy because government is not run like a business.
“It is hard to make cuts,” Mr. Shaban acknowledged. He favors a state hiring freeze, “making small cuts here and there,” and changing to a 401(k) pension plan. He also said “real consolidations” to government agencies are needed.
The way to increase revenue is by increasing prosperity, he said, explaining that equates with more working taxpayers, increases in businesses, and using the private sector in Connecticut.
“A healthy government,” he said, “does not make a healthy state. You do that by promoting the private sector… and have the government get out of the way.”
Speaking about the state deficit, Mr. Shaban said the state has been borrowing from the state bond fund for 10 months in a row to pay its bills. “We are burning $5 million more each week,” he said.
He’d rather see money go to education reform and to focus on the First 500 instead of the governor’s “First Five” economic development program. The program is designed to attract large-scale business development projects to the state.
Mr. Shaban said the state needs to develop a stable tax and regulatory structure so big and small businesses will move here, hire here and stay here.
The education reform bill recently passed by the legislature is “a good first start,” Mr. Shaban said, but he said local school districts “are doing fine, and we can control our own destiny.” He agreed, however, that schools in poor areas need help.
When the bill was first proposed, he was among the first to step forward, he said, to oppose the regionalization penalty that could have been applied against local schools. “We shouldn’t penalize success,” he said.
He helped get a line in the adopted bill that reduced the amount of reporting and regulations on high-performing schools.
The education bill was the most important thing the legislature had done in the last two years, he said. He believes in public education and said it is the core function of what government should do.
Mr. Shaban’s two major legislative priorities for the next session are to get state finances back on track and to get everybody to at least try to keep spending at a minimum. His main goal, he said, is getting 500 new businesses, not just five, into the state.