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AGO 1953 No. 171 - November 18, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

CONTRACTS ‑- PUBLIC WORKS ‑- PUBLIC PRINTING ‑- FIVE PER CENT DIFFERENTIAL FAVORING STATE FIRMS ‑- NO AUTHORITY TO EXCEED STATUTORY PERCENTAGE

The state printer has no authority to contract with commercial printing firms where the bid price quoted by such company exceeds by more than five per cent the bid price quoted by competing out-of-state printing companies.

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                                                               November 18, 1953

Honorable C. Ellington
Public Printer
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 171

Dear Sir:

            By letter as previously acknowledged you have requested the opinion of this office on a question which may be stated as follows:  May the state printer lawfully contract with printing companies in Washington where the bid or price quoted by such companies exceeds by more than five per cent the bid or price quoted by competing printing companies outside the state?

            In our opinion, the answer to your question is "No."

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 1, chapter 34, Laws of 1933 (RCW 39.24.010) provides:

            "Any board, commission, officer, employee or other person or persons of the state, * * * whose duty it is or may be to purchase materials, supplies, goods, wares, merchandise or produce for the use of any department or institution within the state * * * may purchase from or accept the bids of persons or concerns offering such materials, supplies, goods, wares,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] merchandise or produce as are grown, produced, or manufactured in the State of Washingtonwhen the price or prices quoted for the same are not more than five per cent in excess of the lowest bid or prices quoted for the same commodities or articles grown, produced or manufactured elsewhere, quality and service considered."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The statute permits discretion on the part of the person or officer contracting for the state only up to a five per cent margin in price differential for the same manufactured articles.  We think that printed material falls within the class of articles manufactured, so that where private companies are given contracts to do printing for the state the statute will apply.

            An exception is created by the last four words of the statute, but it would apply only where the state required samples submitted before making the contract or where it clearly appeared that the out-of-state company could not render service comparable to that of a Washington bidder (for example, as to date of delivery where time might be important).  The statute clearly relates to acceptance of bids, which are normally taken upon specifications in the case of material to be printed to order.  Should performance of a contract fall short of the specified quality or service, another question would be presented.

            We note that the authorization for such contracts by the state printer is contained in RCW 43.78.110, which provides:

            "Whenever in the judgment of the public printer certain printing, ruling, binding, or supplies can be secured from private sources more economically than by doing the work or preparing the supplies in the state printing plant, he may obtain such work or supplies from such private sources."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The purpose of this authorization is to permit the printer to save money when possible.  The legislature has carefully stated that five per cent is the maximum difference which may be allowed to foster and encourage local industry.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            We think that any allowance above five percent would violate both the purpose of RCW 43.78.110 and the letter of RCW 39.24.010.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


RALPH M. DAVIS
Assistant Attorney General

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