AUGUSTA — A bill to encourage the purchase of American-made products is advancing in the Legislature after winning initial House approval with a largely party-line vote of 84-59 Wednesday.

“Buying American-made products whenever feasible makes good business sense. To me it seems silly if we save a little money on a product, but end up losing jobs,” said Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, during the debate in the House.

LD 407, An Act To Buy American-made Products, directs the state of Maine to buy American-made products whenever possible. The bill includes safeguards to give the state flexibility to ensure that it can still purchase all the items it needs, including those for safety. The bill does not apply to municipalities or school administrative units and includes an exemption for products not available domestically.

“I don’t think I can say it any better than Abraham Lincoln: ‘If we purchase a ton of steel rails from England for twenty dollars, than we have the rails and England the money. But if we buy a ton of steel rails from an American for twenty-five dollars, than America has the rails and the money both,’” said Gilbert, a longtime advocate for workers and member of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

Research by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that maximizing domestic content in public works projects can increase manufacturing job gains by 33 percent.

The bill faces further action in the House and Senate.

Gilbert has more than 30 years of private and public sector management experience. He managed supermarkets prior to his long career as a job service manager at the Maine Department of Labor.

He is serving his fourth term in the Maine House and represents Jay, Livermore Falls and part of Livermore.

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