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Buying American: Colorado Debates Bidding Preferences

The so-called Buy American preference would give a 1 percent preference in state bids to construction companies that use American-made equipment.

DENVER (AP) β€” It may be patriotic to buy American, but Colorado lawmakers are divided on whether legislation should give a boost to construction companies that do it.

A measure given preliminary approval in the Democratic Senate on Thursday gives state bidders a 1 percent preference if they use American-made equipment.

"We should support American manufacturing and American jobs," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver.

Republicans opposed the measure on an unrecorded voice vote, though. Some said the measure would impede free trade and cost taxpayers thousands in inflated bids.

"I don't think this bill is going to do much one way or the other, except cost us money," said Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton.

Neville scoffed at a remark by Foster that American flags are made in China, and that it would be nice if Chinese flags were manufactured in America.

"I think we can dream bigger and better than manufacturing flags for China," Neville said.

A state analysis prepared for lawmakers projected the so-called Buy American preference would cost Colorado more than $200,000 a year because of additional bureaucratic work verifying contracts. The analysis also said the state could end up paying more for certain contracts but didn't speculate on a number.

The proposal is the latest attempt by Senate Democrats to boost jobs through contracting preferences. Earlier this week, the Senate approved a measure to set up bidding preferences for contractors that agree to use Coloradans to do the work.

Republicans oppose both measures, which face near-certain defeat in the GOP-controlled House.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, a Democrat who is running for Congress this fall against a Republican incumbent, took the podium on both measures to argue they would create jobs.

Shaffer called Foster's Buy American bill "another one of those common-sense bills."

The measure faces one more formal vote in the Senate before it heads to the House.

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