A bill that could be considered this week by the Illinois House sounds patriotic, but it would cost taxpayers more, hurt Illinois manufacturers and perhaps damage trade relations with Mexico.
House Bill 3438 is called the "Buy North American'' bill. It would require that all vehicles purchased or leased by the state be assembled in North America, specifically the United States or Canada. The bill has passed a House committee and could come up for consideration on the floor this week.
If approved by the House, it would move to the Senate. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Manufacturer's Association are both opposed to the measure.
It's a recycled effort from past General Assemblies to prevent vehicles that are assembled in Mexico, or elsewhere, from being purchased by the state. But the bill is misguided for several reasons.
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First, restricting which manufacturers can bid on a product or service almost always leads to higher prices. If vehicles assembled outside of North America can't be purchased by Illinois, it will lead to fewer competitors and higher prices. That means taxpayers ultimately end up paying more.
In addition, the bill refuses to recognize manufacturing reality. A vehicle assembled in a foreign country, say Mexico, may contain hundreds of American-made parts. There are several manufacturers in Illinois that serve the auto industry that could be harmed by this bill. It is increasingly difficult to really brand vehicles as "American-made.''
The bill also is a slap at Mexico, which is a major trading partner with Illinois. Mexico is the second-highest country for Illinois exports at $6.4 billion a year. A number of Illinois companies rely on strong relations with Mexico.
The Mexican government has taken notice of the bill. Consul General Carlos Jimenez Macias wrote to the House Labor Committee, citing the potential damage by "increased production costs and reduced competitiveness.''
The bill's impact would be to remove from the market several vehicles made by General Motors, and sold by local dealers throughout the state, that are assembled in Mexico, Korea and Australia. If the bill passed, the Caprice, the only full size rear-wheel police cruiser on the market, would not be available. The Silverado truck also would be unavailable for state purchase or lease.
Legislators will be tempted to vote for this bill because it appears patriotic. But it's bad public policy that should be defeated. This bill would harm taxpayers, Illinois workers and manufacturers and put an attractive trade program with Mexico at risk.