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Bustos: Thomson prison opening could face delay

Sequestration’s effects will be felt regionwide, congresswoman says

STERLING – In addition to impacting countless federal programs, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos said Thursday that the $85 million in budget cuts slated to take place today could delay the opening of the long-dormant Thomson prison.

Across-the-board cuts will make it “very difficult to move forward” on new federal projects, including the opening of the prison, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said.

“I don’t see that sequestration is going to be any help to this,” said Bustos, an East Moline Democrat. “In the end, we will do everything we can to lobby to make sure that it’s in the president’s budget.”

Bustos represents the 17th Congressional District, which includes all of Whiteside and Carroll counties.

Her office has been in regular communication with that of Durbin, D-Ill., a strong proponent for opening the prison, she said.

Durbin spokeswoman Christina Mulka said she hopes the budget will include funding for the activation of prisons. It won’t have a specific line item for Thomson, though.

In October, Obama bypassed Congress and designated “unobligated” money to buy the prison for $165 million.

The state built the 1,600-cell prison a decade ago, then decided it couldn’t afford to run it. It had sought a buyer for years.

The decision to buy Thomson prison to relieve serious overcrowding was made in 2009, long before the Budget Control Act was passed.

“It’s no secret that under sequestration, it will be extremely difficult to find new funding for projects across the federal government, including the activation of Thomson prison,” Mulka said in a statement.   

Bustos also said an Army analysis shows the Rock Island Arsenal could lose up to $200 million as a result of the indiscriminate budget cuts.

“Job losses will obviously have a trickle-down effect,” she said. “If we have people who are going to be furloughed, and what they’re talking about at the Army is taking a day off, without pay every week, so that’s a 20 percent pay cut.”

Bustos said that would mean those impacted would have less money to spend in the community, such as on dining and leisure entertainment.

She also said sequestration has resulted in uncertainty that is negatively impacting small businesses.

Most federal programs will be impacted as a result of the cuts.

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