House passes bill that will abolish KTEC

TOPEKA — Following Gov. Sam Brownback's lead, the House has approved a bill to abolish the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp.

KTEC is a state-owned corporation created in 1986 to help incubate high-tech industries by providing business assistance and in some cases, direct financial investment, to emerging companies.

As a budget-cutting measure, Brownback proposed to abolish the stand-alone agency and merge its functions into the Department of Commerce and the Board of Regents.

The move is expected to save about $1.7 million a year.

Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, made the case for keeping KTEC, saying its efforts had generated $1.15 billion in business sales and 2,043 high-paying jobs in the past three years.

He said he's concerned that KTEC's specific portfolio, high-tech startups, would get lost in the larger Commerce Department.

"In my opinion, KTEC needs to be a stand-alone agency," Gatewood said. "Kansas will truly suffer if we pass this and merge this."

Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, who carried the bill on the House floor, said KTEC was a good idea in 1986, when he was in junior high.

But now, he said, "today every business we look at has technology consequences.... Business is technology."

"Any of us who have seen KTEC work in our districts know some wonderful things have come from it," said Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City. But she added, "I have great respect for what Gov. Brownback is trying to do."

The bill, House Bill 2054, passed on a voice vote. The Senate hasn't voted on the bill.