BENTON — State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, and some other state legislators blasted Gov. Bruce Rauner on Saturday for his veto of a bill that would have re-opened the Hardin County Work Camp.
The camp closed in January of this year, sending more than 60 employees to other parts of the state, creating an economic deficit in that area, according to a news release.
The work camp opened in 1980. In June 2015, the governor announced the closing of the work camp as part of budget cuts, saying it would save $1 million annually and save on $9.8 million worth of repairs that needed to be done to keep it open, according to past articles.
Forby and the others expressed their disappointment.
“Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I shocked? No,” Forby said. “This governor doesn’t give a lick about Southern Illinois. He’s just another snake oil salesman from Chicago. Closing down state facilities in parts of the state that truly need an economic boost just doesn’t make sense."
Forby said this bill received bipartisan support because lawmakers on both sides of the aisle understand the importance of the work being done at the camp and the economic impact to the surrounding communities.
"The only explanation I can come up with is, he’s just a terrible governor," Forby said.
Also sharing his surprise was state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg.
“I was shocked that Gov. Bruce Rauner single-handedly closed the Hardin County Work Camp, after Democratic and Republican lawmakers urged him to keep the facility open,” Phelps said.
Phelps said he worked with fellow legislators in both parties to pass legislation to reopen the facility.
"By vetoing the bill, our billionaire governor from Chicago once again demonstrated he doesn’t care about communities in Southern Illinois and showed everybody how much is at stake in the November election and in 2018 when he is on the ballot again," Phelps said. "Southern Illinoisans will not forget.”
State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, accused the governor of using his money to buy "legislative lapdogs" who would not defend the interests of Southern Illinoisians.
"Rauner's veto was a result of his obsession with annihilating organized labor and hurting union members, like those who worked at the Hardin Camp," Bradley continued. "Rauner hates unions because they fight for fair wages, decent benefits and safe working conditions for everyone, and in the private sector they demand that workers receive a fair share of the profits, which means less money for people like Rauner."
He went on to say that Rauner made his fortune at an investment firm that owned companies that profit from privatization of prisons and the probation system.
"Rauner may well be trying to dismantle and privatize our criminal justice system to financially benefit himself, his former business partners, and the wealthy individuals who fund his political activities," Bradley said.