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Russell bill would save money by 'piggybacking'

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Local governments in New York would be able to save money by “piggybacking” off federal purchasing contracts if a bill being debated in the Assembly is passed.

The concept is simple, and familiar to wholesale shoppers everywhere: Buying in bulk is cheaper. But the state’s local governments are cut off from the bulk purchases of other states and the federal government because New York is the only state that doesn’t allow the frugal practice.

“Instead of just using New York’s purchasing power, now, you have the entire purchasing power of the nation,” said Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, the bill’s prime sponsor in the lower chamber. “Just by passing this law, we could see pretty immediate savings.”

The bill was sent from a committee last week and is headed toward the Ways and Means Committee. If the measure makes it through that committee, it would then go to the Assembly floor for a vote.

Mrs. Russell said she’s optimistic about its passage.

“I would think that once we get through the committee process, it has a reasonable chance of passing,” she said, noting its “bipartisan support” — it passed the state Senate unanimously last year and this year.

It stalled in the Assembly in 2011, though, because it was introduced too late in the session, Mrs. Russell said.

Right now, if a local government needs to purchase anything from pencils to shovels to snow plows, it can piggyback off contracts within the state.

But it can’t look to other states to do so, even though municipalities in the 49 other states can.

Mrs. Russell estimates that, depending on what’s being purchased, local governments would save 5 to 25 percent if they’re allowed to piggyback on national contracts.

The bill would still require that the national contracts be subject to New York’s competitive bidding requirements and does not absolve responsibilities to meet minority- and women-owned business quotas.

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