DALLAS — A key Kansas House committee reversed itself Thursday and sent a bill authorizing $202 million of state bonds for a bio-defense laboratory to the House floor.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the proposal after stipulating that no new state funds would be expended on the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility until Congress agrees to fund the federal government's majority share.
The endorsement came a day after Committee members voted to defer action on the new state debt sought by Gov. Sam Brownback. The panel wanted more information on why the price tag on the facility has almost doubled from the 2009 estimate of $650 million.
The latest price tag on the high-risk laboratory totals $1.255 billion of state and federal funding.
The fiscal year 2014 federal budget proposed by President Obama includes $713 million for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility. The federal spending is contingent upon Kansas agreeing to the $202 million of additional bonds.
The 2010 Legislature authorized $105 million of appropriations-backed debt for the state's 20% match for the laboratory.
In addition to the original bonds, the state also contributed $35 million in research funding for the transition of the laboratory from Plum Island, N.Y.
The Department of Homeland Security has spent $200 million on preparation, engineering, design, and site-specific risk assessments.
The Senate is expected to begin debate Tuesday on the bond bill, Senate Bill 245. The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved it May 8.
Brownback filed a supplemental fiscal 2014 budget April 29 that includes the $202 million of bonds. The bonds would be issued by Kansas Development Finance Authority with approval from the State Finance Council.
Brownback said the additional state funding is needed because the facility was re-designed to make it more secure and lessen the likelihood that dangerous diseases could be released.
The research facility is vital to national security and the Kansas economy, said Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag.
"The request for an additional $202 million in bonding is significant but it's the right thing to do," she said. "The NBAF is vital to the security of our country's food supply, the health of our livestock industry, and growing our state's economy."
The $202 million will be the final state funding needed for the research laboratory, said Landon Fulmer, Brownback's chief of staff.
"DHS does not intend to come back and ask Kansas for further funding," Fulmer said Thursday in a meeting with Democratic state senators.
The laboratory, which will be overseen by the federal Department of Homeland Security, will be built at the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan, Kan.
The laboratory will consist of two laboratory facilities and four outbuildings. Research will focus on deadly animal diseases that could threaten the nation's food supply.
A 2012 economic analysis said the laboratory will provide 326 permanent jobs with an average annual salary of $77,000. Its benefit to the state is estimated at $3.5 billion over the first 20 years.