STERLING – U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling said partisan bickering is preventing the sale of Thomson prison.
Speaking to the Sauk Valley Media editorial board, the Colona Republican, who is seeking election to his second term in the newly redrawn 17th District, said he remains hopeful that the Carroll County lockup will be sold to the federal Bureau of Prisons.
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.
Schilling said a partisan battle between Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Frank Wolf, a GOP congressman from Virginia, has stymied the sale.
“We’re trying to get Thomson prison up, and it’s a little cat and dog fight between two people, the reason that thing’s not done yet,” he said. “Money’s there, just needs to be repositioned, and I’ve been working pretty hard to get that money repositioned.”
In this case, partisan politics are standing in the way of job creation, he said.
“While they’re having their little childhood gaming deal going on, it’s our area here, Thomson prison, that’s not getting opened and 1,000 people are not getting a job,” Schilling said.
He also said the redrawn 17th District, which includes all of Whiteside County, now is more Republican than Democratic.
“They [the Democrats] could not go anywhere without picking up solid Republican areas,” he said of what he called the partisan map. “I think they’ve miscalculated and the key thing is, I run as an independent thinker.
“That’s why for the first time in years, we won Rock Island County. That’s a pretty big feat to do.”
As the election approaches, Schilling said he will continue to meet voters and show them that he is “just a regular guy that has the best interest of our district at hand.”
Former East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos is the candidate to beat, he said. She was “probably one of the top contenders,” who has been “hand-picked.”
He also said not to underestimate Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp, whom he ran into frequently while campaigning. Also running is Augustana College official Greg Aguilar.
As far as the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Schilling said Texas Gov. Rick Perry should drop out of the race.
He said he did not have a preference among the other candidates.
“The big thing I look at is it’s going to be someone that’s pro-business,” he said. “They’re not going to come in and continue with over-regulation and overtaxing our job creators.”