State Reps. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, and Jim Sacia, R-Freeport, want Illinois to give the Thomson Correctional Center to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
"While this step is bold, Representative Sacia and I believe it is necessary," Rep. Morthland said in a news release.
A letter proposing the deal and signed by the two representatives was delivered to Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday, encouraging him to give the prison to the Federal Bureau of Prisons with two strings attached.
One is that the Bureau of Prisons agrees to open the facility right away, and the other is that the bureau will pay the remaining mortgage of $61 million.
A request for comment from Gov. Quinn went unanswered Wednesday.
Illinois has agreed to sell the empty prison to the federal government for $165 million. If opened, the prison -- about an hour north of the Quad-Cities -- would require an estimated 1,100 workers.
Supporters of the sale say it would ease overcrowding in the federal system and provide a significant economic boost to the region.
The proposed sale has been blocked in Congress by a coalition of legislators from states which have new but unopened federal prisons. They argue any money spent to buy Thomson should be spent on opening those prisons. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, D-Virginia, chairman of a subcommittee with jurisdiction, also insists the money targeted for use for the purchase would result in an illegal "earmark."
The idea of giving the prison away was greeted coolly by other area legislators.
State Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, said he wants to see Thomson open, but "that would be like giving $100 million away."
"I think their proposal is flawed," said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. "You can't just give away a state asset."
He added, however, that "anything to create jobs I'd be for" and that he would be OK with the proposal if it was possible.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, said he's open to look at anything that will get the prison open.
"I hate to see a $140 million project just sitting there and falling apart," he said.
In an emailed statement, East Moline Democrat Cheri Bustos, Rep. Schilling's Nov. 6 election opponent, said Illinois taxpayers are already offering Thomson to the federal government at a bargain price.
"I can hardly think that the state can afford this loss of expected revenue," she said.
Christina Mulka, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.'s spokeswoman, in a Wednesday email said the senator has been working with Rep. Sacia, and they share a common goal of opening Thomson, noting Rep. Wolf "is standing in the way of the prison no matter the price."
Today is Wednesday, June 19, the 170th day of 2013. There are 195 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: The treasurer of Mercer County has been instructed to sell all thespecie now in the treasury for the highest premium in legal tender and to report same atthe next board meeting. 1888 -- 125 years ago: J.S. Freeman has been elected president of the Recreation Club ofthe Rock Island YMCA. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Rock Island voters will decide next Tuesday on the proposal toconsolidate with South Rock Island Township. 1938 -- 75 years ago: The Rev. Frederick J. Rolf will round out his 30th year as pastor ofthe Evangelical Church of Peace at Sunday worship services. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Dennis Kelly, of Moline High School, has been named a winner inTime Magazine's 27th annual current affairs contest. 1988 -- 25 years ago: The Martin Luther King Community Center will participate in theSummer Food Service Program. Free meals will be made available to all children 18years of age and younger.