New Jersey Legislation Aims to Strengthen Buy America

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Jan 28 2021 |
The Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey. Photo by hyrdropeek via Creative Commons

As President Biden takes steps to make sure federal taxpayer dollars are spent on American-made goods, lawmakers in the Garden State want to promote the purchase of Made in USA iron and steel.

If you come to this website often, you probably already have heard that President Biden signed an executive order on Monday to strengthen Buy America preferences. As my colleague Matt McMullan outlined, the goal is to make sure that when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars, it purchases American-made goods whenever possible, reinvesting that money right back into American communities (and creating a whole lot of jobs).

But Biden isn’t the only one working to strengthen Buy America.

The New Jersey Assembly is currently considering legislation that seeks to ensure that Garden State tax dollars, whenever possible, also are spent on products made in the United States by American workers.

The New Jersey Buy American Act, which passed the state Senate unanimously back in November, specifically aims to promote the purchase of American-made steel and iron products. Under the legislation, all state contracts over $1 million in value for highway and bridge projects must contain a provision that any iron or steel goods “are made in whole or substantial part in the United States.”

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (D), who sponsored the bill with Sen. Jim Beach (D), said Buy America provisions are “a matter of good economic sense.” He continued:

“I believe that we have an obligation to use public funds in ways that help our workers and businesses. This is part of a national movement in support of American jobs that will help revitalize infrastructure across the state and bolster the strength of our manufacturing industries.”

Beach echoed those remarks. “When we are using public funds to serve public needs, we have a responsibility to use those resources in ways that support domestic needs, including American jobs, New Jersey’s economy and key industries,” Beach said.

“Reinvesting tax dollars into the local and national economy promotes growth, expands the tax base, and – by employing more Americans – ultimately reduces the burden on social safety net programs,” he continued.

The New Jersey legislation mirrors the Buy American law in New York, which became permanent in 2020. Given the close ties between the two states, having complementary Buy America preferences on the books in New Jersey would help ensure projects overseen by bi-state agencies like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey purchase American-made products.

The New Jersey Buy American Act passed out of committee on Monday and now heads to the Assembly floor. Sponsors in the Assembly include Democratic Reps. Anthony Verrelli, Thomas Giblin, and Joe Danielson, along with cosponsors John Armato and Vincent Mazzeo.

We encourage the Assembly to follow the Senate’s lead and approve the measure, and we hope legislators will take steps to ensure Buy America preferences also apply to clean energy infrastructure, including offshore wind projects.

And if you are a New Jersey resident, please be sure to tell your assembly members to vote for the bill.

Tell the Assembly: Pass the New Jersey Buy American Act!

This vital legislation will ensure that when New Jersey invests in certain highway and bridge construction projects, taxpayer money will be reinvested back into American workers and companies, creating jobs and boosting our local economy.

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