In the October 2, 2013 “Letters to the Editor,” The Prairie Advocate printed a letter from Thomson Village Trustee Dr. Art Donart that stated, “You tell a damnable lie on the front page of your September 25th issue (Bustos Votes Against Continuing Resolution, Delays Thomson Prison Opening). You know that a vote against the Continuing Resolution has nothing to do with opening the prison. You were at the same meeting I attended with Senator Durbin and Congresswoman Bustos when it was explained that a Continuing Resolution only funds what has already been funded in the current budget and at the same level of funding. There is no funding in the current budget to open the prison.”
I also caught some flack from Colin Milligan, Communications Director for the Congresswoman. He basically said the same thing as Dr. Donart, and added that he wondered why I had not asked Bustos for any comments. I told him that I didn’t think I needed to, since I used her own news release for information and quotes.
The following correspondence took place between Milligan and me via email last week. I asked a few questions that related to the article that Congresswoman Bustos and her vote against the Continuing Resolution (CR) being “a vote against opening the Thomson Prison.” My questions are listed in order, with Milligan’s comments following.
1) Was the funding for the Thomson Prison included in the most recent CR?
2) If so, why did you not vote for the CR?
3) If not, the House version of the CR funded the complete government operations, with the exception of the Affordable Care Act . . . The Senate did not approve it. Please express your thoughts on the “lack of negotiations and compromise,” as expressed by Sen. Reed and President Obama recently.
4) At the Thomson meeting, both you and Sen. Durbin stated that the prison would NOT open without a real budget. That was confirmed by Asst. Director Dalius:
“The Senate and the House have different budgets, “ Durbin explained. “Come October 1, when we are supposed to be in the budget cycle, we are not likely to have an agreement between the House and Senate. In the interest of full disclosure, we are likely to be dealing with a Continuing Resolution - which means continuing this year’s budget for a time - a few days, or weeks, hopefully not months.”
“This area has been hearing about this prison for 16 years . . . and it is still not open,” Bustos said. “This is a priority . . . ”
The fact remains that Congress has not passed a real federal budget since 1997. An “omnibus spending bill” was passed in April of 2009 but that is not technically a budget. Congressional inaction has left the federal government running on extensions (“Continuing Resolutions”) of THE single budget that was passed nearly 20 years ago.
Here is Question #4: Sen. Durbin confirmed that the project is currently “on hold,” until a “full year budget” is passed. Is it realistic to assume that a budget - a real budget - will be passed this fall?
5) Is it fair to express the Thomson Prison as a “priority,” keeping in mind the 20-year lack of a budget?
6) Are there ANY other possibilities for getting the funding approved without a budget?
Here is Milligan’s “on-the-record statement”:
“Congresswoman Bustos is fully committed to doing everything in her power to open Thomson prison because she believes it would not only alleviate overcrowding in our prison system, but its opening will be an economic boon for northwest Illinois. She’s encouraged that the Obama Administration, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Senate, and the Illinois congressional delegation have all made opening Thomson a priority. She continues to look forward to working with Senator Durbin and her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure this job-creating facility remains on track to open.
“On background, a CR isn’t new funding, it’s just funding the government at current levels. The CR the House voted on had no chance to pass the Senate and would have been vetoed by President Obama. Rep. Bustos has long stated support for a vote on a clean CR, which is her preferred path forward, and that a bipartisan majority in the House would support and business groups across the country favor as well.
“The President’s budget included funding for Thomson (this is just a list of priorities of the Administration and $$ amounts – similar to a monthly household budget), the Senate’s budget included funding for Thomson (just lists the priorities of the Senate and $$ amounts) and the Senate’s “Appropriation” bill (actual $$ - similar to when you go out and actually buy the gas you budgeted for) included funding for Thomson . . . a ‘Continuing Resolution’ or ‘CR’ only funds the government at current levels for a short period of time while Appropriations bills are working their way through Congress (Congress passes yearly “Appropriations” bills often in the absence of a “Budget”). Since a CR includes no new funding, it therefore includes no funding for Thomson, a new project.
“Once again, a budget doesn’t actually contain any $$, Appropriation bills include $$.”
From my perspective, this response is just semantics. Durbin and Bustos both confirmed that the project was “on hold” until a “full year budget” was passed. If a “budget doesn’t actually contain any $$,” as Milligan stated, why didn’t the Senator and the Congresswoman simply explain it that way?
The solution is quite simple: Show me the money. I wish he would have just answered my questions. Or maybe he did?