WASHINGTON D.C. (WYMT) - A new federal prison in Letcher County is still set to be built, however, U.S Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein raised some questions about funding for the prison as he was grilled by Congressman Hal Rogers yesterday.
Hal Rogers at 2017 National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit
The project has been in the works for more than 10 years.
"It would really be devastating to our economy if they pulled this project," said Jim Ward, Letcher County Judge Executive.
"It is already law. That budget has already been passed into law," said Congressman Hal Rogers.
During a budget hearing Tuesday, Rep. Rogers questioned the Deputy U.S Attorney General after funding for the prison appeared to be taken away.
"In your budget request, you specifically rescind the money for the facility. What I want to know is, are you serious?” said Rep. Rogers.
"The tough budget choice that we made here, given the current volume of inmates and given the projections for the future, the Bureau of Prisons just felt that we didn't need the prison at this time," said Rod Rosenstein, U.S Deputy Attorney General.
He said the federal prison population has seen a 14 percent reduction in the last several years, but local officials said it's still a big problem.
"In my opinion, the overcrowding is still there," said Ward.
The argument Rep. Rogers made during that hearing Tuesday, is that the $444 million set aside for the prison in Letcher County has already passed through Congress, making it law.
"It's the Congress that controls the purse strings of the country, it's been passed, it's the law,” said Rep. Rogers. “The money is there, appropriated, authorized, everything is in order."
Officials from Hal Rogers’ office said it will require a legislative change through the appropriations process for the money to actually be rescinded.
Rep. Rogers said the prison project is still on track.
Local officials said they expect a groundbreaking ceremony within the next year for the prison.
Congressman Hal Rogers pressed U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the Trump administration's proposal to rescind funding for the Letcher County Prison during a hearing on Tuesday for the Department of Justice's fiscal year 2018 budget.
Congress approved $444 million for construction of the facility in 2016, which would create approximately 300 jobs in Eastern Kentucky. The facility is scheduled to be built in Roxana, Kentucky and is awaiting the release of the Bureau of Prison's Record of Decision, expected later this year.
General Rosenstein said tough budget choices had been made as a result of the Administration's tight budget proposal. He also noted a 14% decline in prison population over the last four years.
If you would like to watch the entire exchange between Congressman Rogers and Deputy AG Rosenstein, click on the video and scroll to the 32 minute and 49 second mark.