Kansas’ National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility funding must be appropriated
Opinion page Editor
Now that Kansas’ congressional delegation is in agreement that a House budget bill doesn’t make specific mention of construction funding for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility at Kansas State University and that an appropriations bill is required to secure it, it’s time for Congress to finally produce the funding.
A proposed federal budget sent to Congress earlier this year by President Obama included $740 million in construction funding, with the caveat that Kansas would have to produce an additional $200 million for the project.
This newspaper noted at the time that, although the project was included in the proposed budget, nothing was certain until Congress actually appropriated the $740 million.
The House budget compromise, which is scheduled for a vote Thursday in the Senate, leaves Kansas pretty much where it always has been throughout the process of finding a new home for a federal research laboratory to replace one being phased out at Plum Island, N.Y., waiting on Congress to do what needs to be done.
Kansas’ state legislators weren’t exactly thrilled by being asked to contribute another $200 million to the project – they had earlier appropriated more than $100 million for NBAF infrastructure – at a time when they were looking for ways to reduce spending but didn’t rebel when Gov. Sam Brownback asked them to authorize issuing bonds to raise the necessary funding.
The deal offered through Obama’s budget proposal, however, was the state’s $200 million for $740 million in federal funding. The talk coming out of Washington, D.C., now is about a possible $404 million appropriation for NBAF construction. At the rate things are going, Kansas might end up owning the facility, which it will have to lease to the federal government to recoup its investment.
That was written, partially, in jest, but the need for a new National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility is not a laughing matter. The laboratory will conduct research on dangerous animal diseases that could cause substantial damage to livestock production in this country and animal diseases that could metamorphose and create a danger to humans.
This is serious business, and it was decided years ago that the Plum Island facility was outdated and must be replaced. Continued haggling over federal funding for a federal laboratory to conduct research essential to the entire nation serves absolutely no purpose.
Congress is responsible for producing the remainder of the money needed to complete the project, with the exception of Kansas’ $200 million, and it should do that as soon as possible in a single appropriation. F
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