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Senate approves $202 million in biolab bonds

  • Eagle Topeka Bureau
  • Published Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at 7:52 p.m.

— The Senate on Tuesday approved borrowing authority to nearly triple the state’s investment in a national laboratory to fight bioterrorism.

On a voice vote, the Senate approved a bill to authorize $202 million in bonds for Kansas’ share of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a $1.15 billion facility to be built near Kansas State University in Manhattan.

The state earlier had approved $105 million in bonding, so the state’s investment would now stand at $307 million, said Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, who carried the bill on the floor.

The bill will still require House approval; Gov. Sam Brownback is in favor of it and his staff helped get it passed by the Senate.

“I appreciate the governor being on top of this so that we can see this important project and its economic impact on our state,” said Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan. “Also in terms of its whole mission to protect our food supply and some of the real benefits that we’ll get not just in Manhattan but for the state of Kansas with the animal health corridor development.”

The primary purpose of the laboratory complex is to counter possible terrorist threats to crops and livestock, but its research also is expected to spin off benefits in terms of improved treatments for naturally occurring animal and plant diseases.

Kansas fought several other states for the laboratory, which is expected to generate 450 high-paying jobs and $3.5 billion in economic impact in the state during the next 20 years.

President Obama has put $714 million in his budget for the federal share of the project cost.

The cost of the facility has about doubled since the initial proposal five years ago.

The state bill, Senate Bill 245, prohibits issuing bonds for Kansas’ share of the cost until there’s a construction contract in hand, guaranteeing that cost overruns or project changes will be paid for by the federal government.

“I think those were solid business decisions,” Hawk said.

Reach Dion Lefler at 785-296-3006 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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