Monday, September 17, 2012

Bobby Schilling not able to deliver on sale of Thompson Prison (or the 1,100 jobs)

Bobby Schilling is suddenly all for the sale of the Thompson Prison to the federal government – this is a relatively new position for him as he was “against it before he was for it”. In between he sat on his hands a lot. About a year ago the federal Bureau of Prisons negotiated to buy the empty Thompson Prison from the state of Illinois for $165 millions dollars. At that time Congressman Schilling was AWOL from the discussion.
Since his challenger, Cheri Bustos has made his impotence on the sale a campaign issue, and since several editorial boards including the Peoria Journal Star and Chicago Tribune (TWICE!) have raked him and other Republicans over the coals for sitting on their hands while the prison sits empty, 1,100 jobs are lost, and the state loses out on badly needed revenue, Schilling has since changed his position and now wants the sale to go forward. (Just like Amtrak, Schilling has many, many different positions so it is hard to keep track.) The problem is, he can’t get the job done. He did propose to reduce the sale price from a more or less fair $165 million to the “screw you Illinois taxpayers” price of $75 million. However, even the State of Illinois wouldn’t stoop that low – and that’s saying something. The problem for Schilling is that his fellow Republicans, most notably Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia, won’t accommodate him on the sale. Since Rep. Wolf heads a sub-committee that has veto power of the sale it’s not going to happen unless Bobby Schilling can step up to the plate. But what the heck, it’s only 1,100 jobs.

UPDATE: The Obama administration has made an end run around Congressional Republicans who were blocking the sale and is directing the Dept. of Justice to go ahead with the purchase of the Thompson prison at the negotiated $165 million price and not the lower price that Congressman Schilling had asked for. Governor Quinn indicated that the $165 million will go to pay overdue state bills, giving a boost to many small business owners who are owed money by the state. Sen. Dick Durbin was quoted in the Quad City Times on the sale saying, "I asked the congressman [Schilling] to do one thing -- to get Rep. Wolf to sign the letter -- but he couldn't do it," Sen. Durbin said. "He couldn't get it done."

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