Weekly Feature

2017-08-10 / Local News

Morton’s law would ensure American-made tag on county purchases

by BRYAN JACKSON Cheektowaga Editor


Legislator Ted Morton, center, unveiled his proposed Made in America Act on Tuesday morning at Lancaster’s Sealing Devices Inc. He said the act would be a boost to domestic manufacturers, companies and workers. Legislator Ted Morton, center, unveiled his proposed Made in America Act on Tuesday morning at Lancaster’s Sealing Devices Inc. He said the act would be a boost to domestic manufacturers, companies and workers. Erie County Legislator Ted Morton, R-Cheektowaga, wants to bring the term “Buy American” out of the abstract and into the concrete at the county level, and a proposed law announced last Tuesday would be the first step in doing that.

Morton’s Made in America Act would require that all county purchases in excess of $10,000 be manufactured in the United States and all service contracts more than that same threshold be made with companies in America. It’s a move the representative from Erie County’s 8th District, which covers parts of Cheektowaga, as well as Lancaster and Alden, said would send a strong message of solidarity to American producers.

“We don’t have anyone that lives or works in China or in Europe that pays taxes to support Erie County,” Morton said. “But we have hundreds of thousands of residents here in Erie County, over half a million workers, that, whether they own homes or buy gasoline or buy anything where there’s sales tax, support the operations of Erie County. So, I think everything that we can do reasonable in government to support local business, not only the owners of those companies but the hardworking men and women that their jobs are relying on, I think it’s crucial.”

Morton’s proposal comes shortly after New York State approved a similar initiative mandating that state contracts for road and bridge projects valued at more than $1 million include a provision requiring the use of American made iron and steel. The law, dubbed the New York Buy American Act, also set up a working group to determine whether the provision could be expanded to other products such as concrete, cement and aluminum.

New York’s law passed after an earlier, more stringent version, debuted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in his 2017 State of the State address, met opposition in Albany. The state law does allow for exemptions, and, similarly, Morton’s proposal for Erie County would allow for a waiver on the buy-American requirement, via a written request from County Executive Mark Poloncarz and two-thirds approval from the Legislature.

While the proposal is still a fledgling, Morton wants to see it on voters’ ballots this year.

“If this is approved by the Legislature and signed by the county executive in a timely manner, this law would be on a ballot referendum this November for the voters of Erie County, ultimately, to decide if this becomes law,” Morton said, speaking Tuesday in Lancaster at the corporate headquarters and manufacturing site of Sealing Devices Inc.

Ordinarily, that timeline might have been ambitious, given the Legislature’s August recess, but Morton said lawmakers would be meeting at least once this month for a special meeting on the opiate crisis and that Chairman John Mills would be scheduling the public hearing that must be held before legislators can consider the proposal.

Morton said he hopes the Legislature can move on the law by the end of the month, giving Poloncarz until early

October to sign it in time to make November’s election, if it passes.

Although he hasn’t spoken with all of his fellow legislators, Morton said he was encouraged by the response of the ones he has. Morton called the proposed amendment a “no-brainer” and said he hoped support would be unanimous from the Legislature and the county administration, especially given the broad, bipartisan backing enjoyed by the state’s version, which passed by 140-2 and 62-0 in the Assembly and Senate, respectively.

While it remains to be seen which way county lawmakers will break on the Made in America Act, local business leaders have embraced the proposal.

The heads of the Cheektowaga, Lancaster and Alden Chambers of Commerce joined Morton for the announcement, and Kristina Groff, Cheektowaga’s executive director, saw potential benefits for the local business and manufacturing environment.

“When we’re thinking of the manufacturers that are in Erie County, in Cheektowaga, these companies that are struggling to find employers, they’re struggling, period, with increasing regulations, it’s big having a government body saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do to support you. We’re going to make this an initiative,’” she said, noting that keeping tabs on exactly how the law was affecting local businesses would be necessary.

Similarly, Terry Galanis Jr., Sealing Devices’ president and CEO, said the law would send a forceful message to the community.

“Years ago, I remember the registration stickers on cars were falling off. They’re printing these things, but we got them from Massachusetts,” he said. “Why were we not letting the people in this state get the business where they pay the taxes? They pay the taxes. Give them a break.”

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