Don't forget 'cooperative' aspect

As one observer noted last week cooperative purchasing - allowing state and local governments to buy off the General Services Administration's multiple-award schedules - has had an unusual life.

That pattern continued last week as an 11th-hour decision from House and Senate conferees rejected bill language that would have prohibited state and local governments from buying off the schedule. As part of the agreement however the current moratorium on cooperative purchasing was extended until December.

Based on the principle that state and local governments will benefit from the prices offered on the schedule and that feds may share in the savings from higher-volume purchasing cooperative purchasing enjoys strong support from GSA and schedule vendors. The jury is still out on the enthusiasm of states some of which already command pricing more akin to that offered on the schedule. Some localities feel they are more likely to reap the rewards of the schedule because many now lack the buying power to get similar deals on their own.

We agree with the committees that cooperative purchasing is probably not best addressed in an appropriations bill. The issues are complex and the potential enormous. Certainly some market segments and some local business will be affected but consistently delaying a decision risks tremendous losses in potential savings for states localities and perhaps even the federal government. At the very least cooperative purchasing could bring a consistency to state pricing and offer states an option.

Cooperative purchasing will likely have its day on the Hill in the very near future. We encourage the interested parties to carve out a plan that will allow cooperative purchasing to go forward at least in the pilot stage.

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