The Times West Virginian

Opinion

March 2, 2014

Effort to encourage purchase of goods produced in U.S. deserves support

The concept of encouraging the purchase of American-made products is certainly not new.

On the federal level, the Buy American Act was passed in 1933 by Congress and signed by President Herbert Hoover. It required the United States government to prefer U.S.-made products in its purchases. There is other legislation that extends similar requirements to third-party purchases that utilize federal funds, such as highway and transit programs.

Of course, there are exceptions in appropriate cases.

The West Virginia Legislature is now making a similar “Buy American” push.

Legislation requiring that goods and equipment purchased for state projects be made in a America was endorsed by the House of Delegates last week by a 90-7 vote and sent to the Senate for consideration.

Northern Panhandle delegates strongly support the measure.

“It’s time for the state of West Virginia to put its money where its mouth is and ensure that state tax dollars are spent on American-made goods and services,” House Industry & Labor Vice Chairman Phil Diserio, D-Brooke, said. “While we’re working to create jobs, we also need to ensure that West Virginia workers don’t lose jobs to oversees companies.”

Diserio and Delegates Ronnie Jones, D-Hancock, and Mike Ferro, D-Marshall, have witnesses first-hand the effect such losses have had on the steel industry and local communities, Stacey Ruckle, communications director of the West Virginia House of Delegates reported.

“It’s difficult for industries to compete if buyers choose products from foreign companies that pay unfairly low wages and operate with lax manufacturing standards,” Jones said. “Manufacturing is coming back in the United States, and as legislators we should do what we can to support those businesses.”

“The people in our area are very sensitive to the damage unfair foreign competition has had on the region’s economy,” Ferro added. “I believe this legislation will be well received.”

House Bill 4168 requires that the goods and equipment purchased by the state Department of Administration for all construction contracts of $500,000 or more be made in the United States. The state Division of Labor would be responsible for maintaining a list of goods and equipment produced in the United States.

As with federal regulations, there are exemptions, The use of foreign goods and equipment, according to the bill, may be authorized by the director of the Purchasing Division in these cases:

• The specified goods or equipment are necessary for the protection and safety of the public or property, and no comparable American-made products are available.

• The director of the Purchasing Division determines that specified goods and equipment are not produced in the United States in sufficient quantity or otherwise are not reasonably available to meet contract requirements.

• The director of the Purchasing Division determines that an item of American-made goods or equipment specified by the state agency exceed the cost of comparable foreign-made goods or equipment by more than 10 percent of the cost of that item.

We operate in a global marketplace, and West Virginia businesses certainly appreciate the freedom to sell their products outside the nation’s borders.

At the same time, we support the effort to use American-made products as much as possible.

The legislation was developed during the 2013 interim process by the Joint Committee on Labor & Worker Safety Issues, which is chaired by Delegate Dan Poling, D-Wood.

“We heard testimony from a number of affected groups, and members put a great deal of energy into creating a solid piece of legislation,” Poling said. “By making sure American-made products are used in state projects, West Virginia is supporting both the large American manufacturer and small businesses, the fabricators and machine shops, which are a vital part of West Virginia’s economy.”

 “The delegates are working hard to secure manufacturing jobs for their districts,” House Speaker Tim Miley said. “They understand how important supporting American companies is not only their local economies, but to the state and national economies as well.”

Buying American is a concept worthy of support, and the House bill also provides reasonable exemptions. We encourage the state Senate to give it strong consideration.

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