NJ “Buy American” Bill Proceeds to a Vote

The New Jersey Assembly is set to vote on a bill, already approved by the Senate, which would require public entities to purchase products made in the U.S. of A.  Supporters of the bill, which include U.S. companies and labor unions, say that the bill will create jobs and stimulate the State’s efforts to recover from the Great Recession.  They point to the recent purchase by the Port Authority of $1.2 billion worth of steel for the Bayonne Bridge from an Italian company as an example where this bill could have done some good.  Supporters also note that there is a “multiplier effect” when taxpayer dollars are spent on U.S. made products for large investment, infrastructure-type projects.  Opponents of the measure, which include several business groups, claim that the bill is unfair to foreign companies who invest and have employees in New Jersey but make their goods overseas.

The Buy America bill would only apply to contracts sufficiently large that they must be put out to bid.  It would require government agencies to buy only products of which at least 50 percent of the cost comes from components “mined, produced or manufactured” in the U.S.  There are exceptions in certain scenarios, such as if the cost of the U.S.-produced product is more than 20 percent higher than a foreign item, or if the U.S.-made product is not available in sufficient quantity.  Certain classes of goods, such as electronics and computers, are exempt altogether.

As small business owners who represent small and medium-size businesses, we support the call to economic patriotism embodied in this bill.  Requiring public contracts to be fulfilled with U.S. made goods may well be the spark this economy needs.