‘Made in America’ measure is good for New Jersey

Sweeney in Wildwood

By Senate President Steve Sweeney

We have experienced hard times and the loss of far too many American jobs in recent years, but we are still the best – we just need the fair opportunity to compete and to produce.

THE “MADE IN AMERICA” legislative package is part of a strategic effort, at the state and federal levels, to support American workers, products and services. When we are using public funds to serve public needs, we have a responsibility to use those resources in a way that supports domestic needs, including American jobs, New Jersey’s economy and key industries. Reinvesting tax dollars in the local and national economy promotes growth, expands the tax base and — by employing more Americans — reduces the burden on social safety net programs.

This is not a new practice. Currently, New Jersey requires the purchase of goods manufactured in the United States for the fulfillment of public works contracts, local public contracts, state construction contracts and local school contracts. In fact, many states and the federal government already give a preference to domestically produced goods and services in their purchasing requirements.

The legislation expands and enhances current law by requiring vendors contracting with state agencies, including state colleges, to purchase goods manufactured in the United States to fulfill their contracts. It also creates more accountability and transparency by requiring businesses that contract with the state or that receive economic development assistance to disclose job outsourcing information. The legislation makes existing statutes both workable and enforceable.

American steel

Four other bills would require the bi-state agencies responsible for bridges, tunnels and roads connecting New Jersey to New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware to use American steel in the construction and repair of the transportation facilities they manage. Similar legislation is advancing in the other states. This effort is similar to action being taken at the national level to support the American steel industry from unfair trade practices and currency manipulation by other countries, including China. Sen. Cory Booker is working with others in Congress to protect the domestic steel companies from unfair competition.

Level playing field

We have the best workers who make the best products in this country, but they deserve a level playing field to compete. The American steel industry literally built this country; it is against our interest to allow it to be eroded by unfair trade practices.

All of the bills have received overwhelming, bipartisan support in the Legislature and now are before the governor for consideration.

The legislation includes a way of administering Buy America preferences by introducing a standardized waiver system, recognizing that it is not always possible or practical to use products manufactured in the United States. The Buy America requirement would apply to contracts that reach the threshold to be competitively bid, and it would allow for a waiver in case the needed products are not manufactured in the United States or are too costly.

We have ensured that these bills are well crafted, and, to me, they are common sense.

We have experienced hard times and the loss of far too many American jobs in recent years, but we are still the best — we just need the fair opportunity to compete and to produce. We should be supporting American jobs — New Jersey jobs — for the economy and for our future economic opportunities.

Read this opinion editorial in the Record here.