by Ashley Phosphate
Daniel Island – Recorded conversations between Representative Jim Merrill and as yet unidentified parties on a conference have the Daniel Island Republican making apologies to everyone from Superintendent of Education Jim Rex to local education officials.
Over the weekend, theDiscust learned of a tape recording wherein Merrill pushes for a series of tax cuts for realtors on their commissions as a means of bypassing the dispute between point of sale property taxes and other reform measures.
The unidentified person to whom Merrill is speaking is quoted as saying: “Jim, I know that we’ve got to help the realtors… I mean they’re the lifeblood of the state and without them and the business they bring we’d all be begging for a bailout from Obama, but what about the damn schools? How are we going to spin that? You got any ideas or anything we can push to the editorial boards and the chamber [of commerce]?” The recording then captures laughter from Merrill and the other parties which ends when Merrill says: “Cut those mother******* to the bone! I’m serious. There’s never been a better time to finish off this education establishment than the present. The kids are dumb as crap anyway. So what’s the harm other than a bunch of poor kids relegated to the poor-ass jobs they’d have [anyhow]?”
News of the recording spread through the legislature by Monday afternoon and Merrill denied it until Rex, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, played the recording at a press conference in Columbia. Merrill immediately said the conversation was a “hypothetical” and that he was merely role-playing and trying to stimulate discussion among the other parties on the phone. “I was playing devil’s advocate,” Merrill said.
Local school officials said that Merrill’s comments were unwelcome and unhelpful in the current budget crisis facing the state. “While I don’t claim to know whether he was serious or not, I certainly think that his comments are misguided to say the least. I certainly hope his constituents are getting an earful and let him know how they feel,” said Nancy McGinley, Charleston County School District Superintendent. Her comments were echoed by colleagues in Berkeley and Dorchester Counties, too.