Legislature Steps Up For Bio Defense Facility
Opinion Press - June 4, 2013 10:13 am
A state panel consisting of the Kansas governor and legislative leaders has authorized an additional $231 million in bonds to help pay for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility under construction near Manhattan.
Assessing the performance of the 2013 Legislature will take longer than the scant 12 hours that have passed – as this is being written – since the Kansas House and Senate dropped their respective gavels on the legislative session and sent their members home.
It isn’t too soon, however, to say legislators made the right decision in including in their budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 the authority for the state to issue $200 million in bonds to support construction of a National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility at Kansas State University in Manhattan.
Granted, a ground-breaking ceremony was conducted last week at the site for construction of the utility plant that will power the operation. Earlier appropriation by the federal government of $40 million for the utility plant, coupled with appropriation of more than $100 million by the state for NBAF infrastructure, certainly gave the appearance construction of the full facility was a done deal.
When politicians are in charge, though, and they are in charge of NBAF at the federal and state levels, nothing is a done deal until it’s done.
The Legislature’s decision to contribute another $200 million in state funding moves NBAF closer to a done deal.
President Barack Obama earlier this year included $740 million in construction funding – and the caveat Kansas would have to come up with an additional $200 million – in the federal budget he sent to Congress.
Kansas now has come through, but Congress hasn’t yet approved the $740 million federal appropriation.
There doesn’t appear any reason now for Congress not to supply the federal dollars to complete the deal, but strange things happen.
Some Kansas legislators grumbled at the thought of increasing the state’s ante but, to their credit, no serious challenge arose to Gov. Sam Brownback’s recommendation the state issue bonds to raise the necessary funding.
As an economic engine, the new laboratory, which will conduct research on dangerous animal diseases, is too important to the state to deny. It has been estimated that NBAF’s economic impact on Kansas could be as much as $3.5 billion over a 20-year period. It a state looking for economic development, that’s huge.
Now that Kansas has complied with every requirement the Department of Homeland Security and the Obama administration have sent down the pike, it’s time for Congress to appropriate its share of NBAF funding.