Tamms plan threat to Thomson?
Manzullo says yes; Jacobs believes they are two different issues
THOMSON – The governor’s push to unload the controversial Tamms “supermax” facility may doom the sale of Thomson Correctional Center, an Illinois congressman said Monday.
Some of his colleagues disagree.
Tamms prison is one of numerous state-run facilities Gov. Pat Quinn has said he wants to close despite the Legislature allocating enough money to keep it open.
Quinn argues that Tamms is too expensive to keep open. It is half empty and the cost per inmate is three times higher than at other prisons.
Friday, Quinn offered to sell the facility to the federal government.
He’s trying to salvage the situation, said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline.
But the move could mean the loss of potential job creation in northwestern Illinois, said U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, a Republican whose district includes the tiny town of Thomson.
A deal has been in the works for 2 years to sell the Thomson prison to the federal government.
Construction started on the maximum-security prison in May 1999 and wrapped up in November 2001. The minimum-security portion was used between 2006 and 2010, but it was never fully opened because of budget constraints.
“In these very tight financial times, we have been working hard to find the federal money needed to buy Thomson, and now the governor has thrown a new option on the table that will compete with our efforts,” Manzullo said in a news release Monday. “The federal government certainly doesn’t have the money to buy two state prisons in Illinois.”
Jacobs doesn’t think Tamms will have any impact on the Thomson sale.
“They’re two different issues,” he said. “Tamms is much further behind on the program.”
He blamed the sale’s holdup on partisan politics.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Illinois, also has blamed partisanship for holding up the deal.
A battle between Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Frank Wolf, a GOP congressman from Virginia, has stymied the sale, Schilling has said.
Schilling doesn’t think the governor’s plans for Tamms will kill the deal, but it “is yet another curveball we will have to work through,” his spokeswoman Andie Pivarunas said in an email.
“There are a lot of moving parts and different folks involved in this process, so there are many avenues that can be taken in an effort to get this done,” she said.
“The June 29 letter to Governor Quinn urging him to consider further lowering the price is yet another possible way of crossing the finish line.”
She was referring to a letter signed by Schilling, Manzullo and eight others that suggests “we can bring Thomson into the federal system by lowering the price and accepting what has already been set aside to buy the facility ... .”
Opening the prison could result in as much as $20.3 million in federal income tax, $6.2 million in state income tax and $3.8 million in sales tax yearly for the state, which “would gain back any lost revenue from lowering the sales price of the prison within 8 years,” the letter says.
The prison was built for $140 million a decade ago, but appraised at $220 million.
The 2011 federal budget includes $170 million to buy Thomson, while the 2012 budget includes $67 million more to open and operate it.
Neither budget has been approved.