Johnson County commissioner says public sector needs to help stem job loss

County Commissioner Ed Peterson

Public sector employees have been a favorite target of the Tea Party movement since its inception, blamed for putting cities and states in a bind with too-large compensation packages and pensions.

But a Johnson County official is starting to wonder whether all the belt tightening at the local level isn’t having an adverse impact on the country’s most pressing problem: jobs.

County commissioner Ed Peterson told the Prairie Village City Council on Monday that over the past several years, the county has cut its workforce from 4,000 employees to 3,800. The situation has obviously led to more work for the existing employees.

“Whether that’s working out depends on who you ask,” Peterson said. “The employees say they’re stretched pretty thin. But the managers say, ‘We’re getting by.'”

Further reductions to the county’s workforce, however, would need serious consideration, Peterson said.

“You get to a point where you really have to question whether it’s the right move from a jobs perspective. The public sector needs to do its part to contribute to the jobs situation,” Peterson said. “The reduction in public sector jobs is a drag on the economy right now.”

Peterson’s comments came during a presentation on the county’s 2012 budget, which included $810 million in spending. Peterson represents the northeast section of Johnson County — including Prairie Village, Fairway, Leawood and Mission Hills — on the Board of County Commissioners.