State postpones vote on agro-defense project

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — State leaders have postponed issuing bonds for a federal proposed biosecurity laboratory until the state bonding investment is legally capped.

The State Finance Council decided Monday to postpone issuing $231 million in bonds for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility on the Kansas State University campus. The $1.2 billion laboratory is planned for research on dangerous animal-borne illnesses.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle, of Wichita, told the council that action on the bonds could occur in December if it receives documents capping the state’s investment at $307 million, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1FloTba ). The state initially agreed to invest $105 million and about three-fourths of that bonding authority has been used.

“I understand that we need to affirm the project,” Wagle said. “However, the language is still not in the contract that our legal adviser says we need.”

Landon Fulmer, Gov. Sam Brownback’s chief of staff and executive director of the state’s NBAF steering committee, had asked the council to authorize the new bonds. He contended an existing memorandum of understanding between Kansas and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security already protected the state from unexpected price increases for the project.

No new state bonding for NBAF would occur until the federal appropriations process for the laboratory was completed, he said.

The Brownback administration last year recommended increasing the state’s support for the project after safety-related changes to the lab plan and concern about the project were raised in Washington, D.C. The $202 million increase in the state’s commitment was part of an agreement to secure the project’s future.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, said state lawmakers accepted doubling the NBAF investment after being promised the federal government would be responsible for future cost increases. Until that arrangement is noted in legal documents, the council should not approve new bonding, he said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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