Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has a week to decide if he wants to approve a local law giving 'Made in America' preference to contracts over $10,000, then send it to the voters for a decision.
The proposal from Cheektowaga Legislator Ted Morton is tangled in legalities. The County Executive said it may not be legal because it clashes with state laws about low bidders.
If he signs off, the Buy American proposal to amend the Erie County Charter has to go to the voters because it can be waived by a two-thirds vote of the Erie County Legislature on a particular contract where there is no American source or it cannot be done. The proposal applies to direct purchases, but also various county services contracts.
Morton said the Buy American rule is a good idea, challenging state law on reasonable low bidders.
"The term "reasonable" should now include, 'Is it being made in America?' To support our fellow workers, our neighbors, the men and women that pay the property taxes, pay the sales taxes to keep governments running," Morton said. "That's why I wrote this law. That's why it's something that I think is very applicable in this day and age."
Lynda Stephens told a public hearing without Poloncarz in attendance that the county's tax structure should be altered to to provide money for the Buy American rules.
"I believe that American goods and services tend to be more expensive than non-American goods and services," Stephens said. "Of course, they are usually better quality. The conditions that I would lay out are the 2018 and future county budgets should be increased to enable Buy American, without cutting departments, services and programs that benefit county residents."
Made in America store owner Mark Andol told the hearing Poloncarz should go ahead and start enforcing this policy even without formal approval of this law.
"This is a blue collar area. At one point, Buffalo was the second largest manufacturing area," Andol said. "$1.3 billion dollars spent in Erie County, I'd like to know where that goes. That raises a number, but that's a lot of money. To have a $10,000 limit on it, I don't think it should have a limit. I don't think it should have to be a law, it should be common sense. I asked the 50 bus people that come visit my stores. It's common sense. It shouldn't have to be a law, Mark."