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Cuomo defendsdriver's license contract winner

ALBANY -- A top Cuomo administration aide Thursday blasted critics of a contract being awarded to the highest bidder who will produce new driver's licenses with black-and-white photos he said will be the best safeguard against terrorists and identity thieves.

But the $88.5 million contract to a Canadian company that's $38 million more than the second-highest bidder was also opposed yesterday by a major retail group. The New York Association of Convenience Stores announced their opposition to the proposed black-and-white photos, saying it would hinder a crackdown on underage drinkers and smokers.

The bid is being reviewed by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli after formal protests and a lawsuit by the apparent losing bidders. The tentative contract award, first reported Tuesday by The Associated Press citing court records, is now being criticized by lawmakers.

"If it is an overbid, [it's] unacceptable considering the problems we have with Hurricane Sandy, the devastation we see on the Eastern Seaboard," state Sen. Mark Grisanti, an Erie County Republican, told WIBV-TV in Buffalo on Wednesday.

The administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo responded Thursday morning.

"Apparently Sens. Grisanti and [Democratic state Sen. Timothy] Kennedy would rather have the low bidders -- all from out of state -- produce a license that can easily be altered by a terrorist, ID thief, or for that matter any 18-year-old with an X-ACTO knife who wants to go to a bar," state director of Operations Howard Glaser said. "The selected bid is a solid polycarbonate card impervious to alteration and it costs a little more per card. The senators should get their facts right, and decide whether they really want to sacrifice New Yorkers' security to the lowest bidder."

The two apparent losing bidders complain that CBN Secure Technologies was unfairly chosen and seek a rebidding of the contract. The driver's license contract is part of the federal "Real ID" measure from the Department of Homeland Security to make licenses more secure, and more states are expected to face similar contract decisions.

"The proposal submitted by De La Rue met or exceeded New York State's stated requirements in every single respect, including the requirement for the incorporation of color in the driving license," stated one of the apparent losing bidders, De La Rue North America.

"The De La Rue product is a superior high-security product in many respects and offers considerable savings for New York taxpayers when compared with the proposal DMV chose to accept," the company stated.

"We respect the cost and security factors influencing this procurement decision, but the public policy goal of preventing youth access to age-restricted products needs to be considered as well," said New York Association of Convenience Stores president James Calvin.

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