SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A top priority during the legislative session is finding ways to boost the state’s economy. Lawmakers are introducing a bill they said would accomplish that by driving more government contracting dollars to local businesses.

Lawmakers said this bill would grow local businesses and create jobs for New Mexicans. New Mexico-owned businesses need some help. “How do we help these small businesses who are just getting creamed?” Sen. Bill O’Neill asked. O’Neill has introduced a bill he said would be a tool to help promote locally-owned companies. “This is new,” O’Neill said. “There is a lot of excitement about this.”

Senate Bill 53 would allow state agencies and local governments to award contracts for goods and services only to in-state companies. For example, a local municipality may be looking for a company to complete things like cleaning services, construction, or a roadwork project. Under this bill, they would be allowed to open up bidding to New-Mexico owned companies only. Right now, they can’t do that. The New Mexico General Services Department said the state spends more than $5 billion a year on goods and services. “The intention and origin of the bill is that these kind of contracts go to New Mexico businesses,” O’Neill said.

KRQE News 13 asked GSD if this would hurt competition among bidders. GSD said while the bill would allow state agencies and local governments to restrict contracts to only in-state bidders, it doesn’t require them to. “An agency has discretion to limit the proposals from New Mexico companies, and if New Mexico companies fail to submit what we would refer to as a responsible offer or the price is not competitive, they can always rebid that and open it up,” GSD Cabinet Secretary Ken Ortiz said.

The bill also would give bidding advantages to native-owned, minority-owned, and women-owned companies. “Anything we can do to bolster small business people is really important,” O’Neill said.

This legislation would also promote purchases of recycled and other sustainable goods. The City of Albuquerque said they’re monitoring the bill to evaluate its potential impact on the way the city purchases goods and services.