State Auditor Tim Keller is going over state contracts worth more than $60,000 with a fine-toothed comb, looking for how much money goes to out-of-state businesses instead of to New Mexico companies.
From a preliminary review, Keller estimates more than a half billion dollars is at stake and calls the practice one of the state’s “structural job killers.”
While it’s a good idea to keep track of such transactions and inform the public about the results, it should be understood that just identifying where the money is going doesn’t necessarily mean it can be redirected to local contractors.
In some cases, the services or goods aren’t available from local sources and, in others, it would cost state taxpayers more money for state and local governments to buy locally, even considering preferences available to local businesses in the procurement code.
State law gives local companies a break — called in-state preference — on contract bids. Local resident businesses get a 5 percent preference on bids and local resident business owned by a military veteran get 10 percent.
Sectors where money is most likely to go to out-of-state firms are information technology, health and medical, and food services. More than half of contracts in those areas goes out of state.
Local vendors that fare best in winning public contracts are construction, architecture and engineering.
Keller told those attending an Economic Forum meeting recently that among agencies, Central New Mexico Community College “does the best job of keeping procurement jobs in New Mexico.”
While it certainly is preferable for governments to buy locally whenever they can, if the cost is prohibitive or the expertise isn’t there, officials still have a duty to get the best deal possible for the taxpayers — even if means buying across state lines.
— Albuquerque Journal