Bidding bill is a bad deal for Oregon

May 21, 2011 05:00 am

Oregonians have the absolute right to expect at least four things when public money is spent:

Whatever is being done is necessary. It will work. It’s the best deal. And there is money to pay for it.

House Bill 3000 fails. It will sprout bad deals.

On Tuesday, Gov. John Kitzhaber highlighted the bill and a package of other items he would like to see to create jobs in Oregon. HB 3000 may not have needed a push. It passed the Oregon House easily and awaits action in the Senate. All the Central Oregon House members supported it.

It’s the kind of bill that attracts politicians like moths to a flame. It would basically allow any public agency in Oregon to give preference to goods and services from Oregon as long as the cost was not higher than other bids by more than 10 percent. Under Oregon’s current bidding rules, public entities generally have to pick the best product for the best price. HB 3000 would tilt the playing field so Oregon products and services could cost 10 percent more and still win the bid.

The bill allows a contracting agency to go even higher than 10 percent if the agency writes up an explanation. In a decision between Oregon competitors, the bill also allows preference to be given to one headquartered in the state.

The justification for the bill is obvious. Oregonians have suffered in the recession. Keeping the money in the state is way for Oregonians to help Oregonians. But the bill invites all kinds of trouble.

It means Oregonians will pay more when government is struggling to come up with enough money. It means Oregonians will pay more when taxpayers could use some relief.

Also, just imagine the justifications that politicians and public employees might try to sneak through to pay their buddies more. They can do it as long as they write up a justification. The justification doesn’t have to be logical, either.

Best product for the best price is the best deal for Oregon. This bill’s pandering to the siren call of the homegrown will cost Oregon more and rationalize bad deals.

– Wescom News Service (The Bulletin, Bend)