Rauner asked to reconsider work camp closure

Political hardball could cost a local Illinois county its largest employer.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner told the leadership at the Hardin County Work Camp to prepare for imminent closure despite the fact that the prisoners provide food to local food banks, and cheap labor to local communities.

Hardin County hasn’t had much luck over the years, according to AFSCME Council 31 Union Representative Jeremy Noelle.

“We had the fluorspar mine shut down,” Noelle said. “Coal mines are shutting down. Industry is shutting down here.”

Now State Rep. Brandon Phelps says the Hardin County Work Camp could be joining the list of closures, and taking 70 jobs with it.

“It’s going to be huge devastation, just like they did in Tamms. It pretty much wiped that little town off the map with what Governor Quinn did,” Phelps said. “Now we have Governor Rauner doing the same thing.”

Rauner acknowledged the importance of the facilities like the work camp, and pushed the blame for the closure on democratic leaders Michael Madigan and John Cullerton.

“I don’t want to cut,” Rauner said. “I don’t want to close facilities. I don’t want to do that at all. Madigan and Cullerton have caused this by their financial mismanagement and we’re going to fix it.”

“We’re tired of the games that are being played in southern Illinois,” Phelps said. “Governor Quinn did it and I didn’t think Governor Rauner would do this. I never thought in a million year that he would do this, but there’s still time.”

With the July 1 deadline to pass a budget fast approaching, Phelps said he believes a bipartisan deal can be struck to save jobs.

So far, prison officials haven’t been given a final date of closure.

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