They say, “no man is an island,” and although Hawaii is a bunch of islands and there is little Rhode Island, none of the United States is that metaphoric island, utterly sufficient unto itself, especially when it comes to contracting for goods and services. No state can supply all its own needs, and all state governments have a responsibility to shop around for the best combination of quality and price, even if that sometimes means shopping across state lines.
Here is another truism: it benefits a state to do as much business as it can with local companies. Doing so increases job opportunities and sends more money circulating through the state economy. Buying local can even help with climate change, because out of state transport imposes a bigger carbon footprint on every transaction.
But the agencies of state government in New Mexico spend 43 cents of every taxpayers’ dollar out of state, and that cross-border share of state government commerce has increased in every one of the past 5 years of Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration.
Over those 5 years, 2013 to 2017 the NM State government has sent $3.2 billion out of state. For a lot of legitimate reasons, some of that spending is unavoidable, the necessary services or products simply aren’t available from in-state providers. More of the out-of-state spending may not be unavoidable, but for various competitive reasons, it is justified. Out of state vendors simply offered NM State government a better deal than any local could offer.
But in some cases, going out of state wasn’t a better deal.
But who could tell, since the state kept secret whether its contract vendors came from New Mexico or elsewhere?
Even after the Legislature set up a so-called Sunshine Portal in 2011, its mission, giving citizens access on line to the details of all state business, was unfulfilled. Even after the Legislature passed in 2017 a bill that demands that the state put on the Portal where the vendors getting state contracts were from, the mandate was ignored.
Says Sander Rue, an Albuquerque-based State Senator from Gov. Martinez’ Republican party, and the co-author of the law demanding that in-or-out-of-state vendor status be disclosed: “”Our attempts to bring the government to the people — through the sharing of information, utilizing technology that’s now available — has not been done to the extent that it should have been done,” he said. “It’s an embarrassment.”
But what the state has refused to do, our guest today reporter John R. Roby of the online investigative news site Searchlight NM has done.
He’s compiled a database of all state contracts and all vendors, and matched ‘em up and, most important, he’s made all of this data publicly available online.
John is data editor for Searchlight New Mexico. He loves tidy data and the people who create it. His work has been seen in Democrat and Chronicle, The Clarion-Ledger, The Journal News, Poughkeepsie Journal, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Las Cruces Sun-News, Star-Gazette, Ithaca journal, NMPolitics.net.