Pa. lawmaker says prison cancellation is political payback

    The Corbett Administration’s decision to cancel a planned $200 million state prison has Pennsylvania House Democrat Bill DeWeese riled.

    DeWeese represents the district where the Fayette County facility would have been built, and made the new facility a big part of his 2010 re-election campaign.

    He didn’t buy acting Corrections Secretary John Wetzel’s argument that the prison wasn’t needed.

    “I can’t fathom how any person could legitimately assert that there’s no need when we have a couple thousand bad guys being housed in the state of Virginia, and up in the wolverine state of Michigan,” he said.

    DeWeese contended the decision has more to do with political retribution, since Gov. Tom Corbett — who used to be attorney general — charged him with theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest in 2009.

    What makes the news worse, said DeWeese, is the fact he didn’t get a heads-up that it was coming. “He and I have had some challenges, to be polite and euphemistic, relative to the past,” he said. “But that’s in another arena. He’s the chief executive of 12.6 million people. My 60,000 folks elected me to go to Harrisburg and serve, and this is an aggressive slap in the face.”

    The Democrat has yet to go to trial, and maintains he’s innocent. DeWeese said the cancelled prison will cost his district 700 jobs.

    “There are ripple effects all the way to Pittsburgh and beyond, because of bricklayers, carpenters, stone masons, operating engineers, electricians, architects,” he said. “These facilities are good, family-sustaining jobs.”

    Corbett’s spokesman didn’t return calls for comment on the story.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.