ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A $2.4 billion prescription drug contract for state employees was approved in a split vote Wednesday by the Maryland Board of Public Works, one of the largest contracts to come before the three-member panel.

After a prolonged debate stretching back to last year, the board voted 2-1 to award the five-year contract to Missouri-based Express Scripts Inc., instead of Maryland-based Catalyst Rx, which currently provides the service to the state.

Gov. Martin O’Malley and Treasurer Nancy Kopp voted for the contract, while Comptroller Peter Franchot voted against it. All three board members are Democrats.

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management recommended that Express Scripts receive the contract, because the state could save as much as $102 million under the company’s proposal.

While both O’Malley and Kopp said they would have preferred to award the contract to Rockville-based Catalyst, they said the savings under the proposal by Express Scripts are too significant to pass up.

“I wish the Maryland-based firm had been best on cost,” Kopp said. “I think it would have been great, but they gave it their best shot and they weren’t.”

The board had been set to approve the contract last March, but it was pulled from the agenda after Catalyst filed its fourth protest about the procurement process with the state’s Board of Contract Appeals. That board rejected the protest last month.

“I don’t think we’ve had a contract that’s been gone over more than this one,” O’Malley said.

Franchot voted against the contract, saying he wasn’t convinced the analysis that favored Express Script’s offer was accurate. The comptroller also said he did not like to see a Maryland company passed over for such a large state contract.

“A Maryland-based company that’s done a great job according to everybody is going to get left at the door,” Franchot said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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