Last-minute insertions into the state’s budget are rarely good public policy, and the fiscal 2012 version contains at least one that deserves to be removed.
After a long day of debate over the budget in the House, an amendment was added (it remained in the budget signed by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee) that seems to require that all state and quasi-state agencies use only media buyers that have a master price-agreement contract with the state. And only one agency in Rhode Island seems to fit that bill.
According to reports published in The Providence Journal, there was no real explanation for the contents of the amendment, except that it was supposed to lower advertising and marketing costs for the state.
The problem is that only Primedia Inc. has a master contract with the state, and the new law would appear to supersede contracts that agencies, such as the R.I. Airport Corporation, have with Primedia competitors, in this case, the RDW Group.
As important as it is to get state spending under control, this is not the way to do it. The initial RFP looking for a master contract with the state three years ago was so poorly publicized that only one company bid on it.
In addition, the commission and hourly rates that the contract calls for are well-above the current market levels, and in fact do not save the state money but potentially inflate what the state pays for these services.
The only real answer is to put out a new RFP and couple it with more robust outreach to the state’s marketing firms. With greater competition, it is difficult to imagine that the savings the state is looking for will not be realized. •
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