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Rutherford: Tight budgets require state facilities plan

Republican gubernatorial hopeful critical of state hospital, prison closures

DIXON – Illinois needs a “well thought-out” strategic plan for its prisons and other state facilities so intelligent decisions can be made when tight budgets require closures, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said Friday during a news conference.

Such decisions are not the responsibility of the state treasurer, but Rutherford was in Dixon as part of his campaign to become governor.

Rutherford, a former state legislator, is among four Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for governor in a hotly contested campaign. About a dozen people met with him Friday at Galena Steak House to talk briefly about state issues.

He is promoting a plan to evaluate “every major state facility” – including Dixon Correctional Center – to avoid the kind of “arbitrary” decisions made by Democratic Govs. Blagojevich and Quinn to close state hospitals and prisons to save money.

“I understand budgets; money is tight,” Rutherford said. “We should put together a long-range strategic plan for all our state facilities. ... Are they being deployed in the most efficient way possible for the state?”

Understanding prisons is especially important, he said, because the facilities are “dramatically overcrowded.” Asked whether it was a mistake to sell the never-opened maximum security prison at Thomson to the federal government, he acknowledged the sale probably would have happened “eventually.”

“Let’s just say if I was governor, we would have worked to help to get it open,” he said. “I would have opened it because we needed the bed space.”

The Republican said that after the 2014 election, Democrats will probably maintain majorities in the state House and Senate, but that he would expect them to be “receptive” to his “methodical” approach to budget matters.

Rutherford said he believes Bruce Rauner will get the endorsement from the Cook County Republican Party when its central committee meets today, because “He’s given a lot of donations.” But he dismissed the importance of an endorsement by “20 people.”

Rutherford this week picked up the support of former state Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, as the endorsement wars began to heat up with less than 90 days until the primary election.

Rutherford and Rauner will be on the March 18 primary ballot with two other Republicans seeking the nomination for governor: Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, both state senators.

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