As Johnson County has gained population over the years, it slowly has added more clout in the Kansas Legislature. Today, much of that power resides in House Speaker Ray Merrick.
But Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, is not in the old-line tradition of the Johnson County moderate politician. Sounding more like an elected official from western Kansas, Merrick showed off his conservative credentials recently with some poorly chosen words.
“Government employees produce nothing,” he told The Wichita Eagle. “They’re a net consumer. And you got that cost forever and ever and ever because they’re on the (Kansas Public Employee Retirement System), they’re on all the government insurance and everything.”
With his statement, Merrick wasn’t just expressing disdain for state workers. By including the pension plan, Merrick was bringing in many local law enforcement officials and teachers who also are part of the pension system.
Long before this incident, Merrick has not been on the cutting edge of progressive efforts on behalf of Kansas.
He is a big supporter of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax breaks, which will lead to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of budget cuts in coming months. Still, Merrick recently said he did not support efforts to dial them back in the coming legislative session.
After his comments about government workers created much criticism, Merrick issued a statement that said in part, “There are thousands of state workers who devote their lives to serving fellow Kansans, and I commend them.”
It’s the proper thing to say. Unfortunately, many people are still left wondering what Merrick’s true thoughts are about government employees.