An amended “Buy Maine, Buy American” bill that would boost Maine businesses while bringing increased transparency and fiscal responsibility to state government is advancing after winning support from the majority of the State and Local Government Committee.
Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, proposed the amendment to create a new procurement review board. The 7-5 vote on this version of LD 1525 fell along party lines, with the independent member joining Democrats to support it.
“Contracts intended to save money can end up being much more expensive because of unforeseen cost overruns,” Golden said. “It’s not enough to have good intentions. Maine needs this safeguard so taxpayers can be assured that state government is using their dollars wisely and that contracted work results in quality work.”
The board, with five members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, would review all state government contracts worth $1 million or more. To win board approval, a contract would have to be the most economical way of meeting a demonstrated need, not impair the department or agency’s ability to perform its duties and not impede other state cost-savings initiatives.
The amendment was added to the original version of LD 1525, which requires state government to purchase Maine-made products and contract services from Maine businesses whenever possible and American goods and businesses when Maine options are unavailable.
“Taxpayers expect the state to spend their money wisely. That includes spending in ways that support Maine businesses and Maine jobs,” said Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, the ranking Senate Democrat on the committee, who worked with Golden on the procurement board amendment. “This bill, as amended, will support and sustain jobs in our state and create a level of transparency in state contracting that’s been sorely missing under this administration.”
The majority report also includes a provision for state agencies to have the “Buy Maine” requirement waived if there is a compelling public interest to do so. The bill does not apply to municipalities or school administrative units and includes an exemption for products not available.
“Maine should reward American companies and Maine companies, not undermine them,” said Rep. Roland “Danny” Martin, D-Sinclair, the House chair of the State and Local Government Committee. “This commonsense measure is about leading by example and making sure state government is supporting our own economy.”
The minority report supported by Republicans replaces the original bill with language that does not require the executive branch to support Maine businesses and Maine jobs.