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Eagle editorial: Lab funding boosts state

  • Published Friday, April 12, 2013, at 12 a.m.

It’s great news for Kansas that President Obama’s budget includes $714 million to build the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan. The lab is projected to have an overall economic impact of $3.5 billion during its first two decades.

As Gov. Sam Brownback said in a statement: “NBAF is vital to the security of our country’s food supply, the health of our livestock industry and growing our state’s economy.”

Though the U.S. Department of Homeland Security already has invested nearly $200 million in site preparation and design work, there’s been doubt about whether the lab would be built. The economic downturn caused some members of Congress to rethink the project. Others raised concerns about possible risks of an infectious pathogen leaking from the lab. And some Kansas leaders worried that the bad blood between Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, could endanger funding.

So Wednesday’s announcement was a relief.

Obama is requesting that Kansas invest $202 million more in the project. The state already has committed $105 million in matching funds and $35 million in research funding.

The additional funding could be a challenge, given the state’s budget squeeze. But Brownback plans to work with the Legislature during the upcoming veto session to approve additional bonding.

Congress must follow through on Obama’s proposal, so hurdles remain. Still, as Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., noted, the funding request is a milestone.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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