The Business Council respectfully asks the Governor to veto S.5706 (Valesky)/A.1398-A (Gunther) which would allow Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to enter into contracts with public libraries to provide telecommunication services, including high speed internet. It is our belief that allowing libraries to purchase these services through BOCES not only undermines the procurement and would eliminate jobs.
The original mission of BOCES, established in 1948, was to help small rural districts provide services they would otherwise not have been able to provide. Since then, BOCES has grown and expanded on its original intent; they have a budget of over $2 billion dollars. According to a recent report by the State Comptroller, New York State is the only state that provides incentive aid to education service agencies. The report also found that the BOCES incentive aid only gave districts the incentive not to seek other proposals for competitive pricing and that BOCES themselves weren't conducting cost comparison analyses that led them to charge districts high costs for sometimes mediocre services.
New York State procurement laws exist to ensure transparency and competition amongst vendors for the benefit of the state, the business community and its taxpayers. The process requires purchasing entities to review a number of proposals from vendors ensuring they receive the best product for the best price. This process is undermined when you factor in state subsidies that give a taxpayer funded entity, such as BOCES, a comparative advantage over private businesses. In this case taxpayer money could be used to create uneven competition to privately-owned telecommunication service businesses. BOCES should not be wasting taxpayer money to create and maintain any type of telecommunication service when proven providers exist. This also abolishes parts the competitive nature of procurement which is a necessary part of government contracting because it protects all parties involved, the government, the vendor community and the taxpayers. Overall cost savings are not realized.
While the Business Council understands the sponsor's intent to alleviate some of the expenses public libraries incur we do not believe this is the best way to do it; circumventing procurement laws undercuts the benefits of competition and dilutes all transparency. Public libraries have the ability to utilize a number of other competitively bid government contracts without having to administer their own or circumvent the process in its entirety. In addition, by giving a taxpayer funded entity a comparative advantage over private business, this legislation would cause job loss and a significant loss to local tax bases.
For these reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation.