DALLAS — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback will ask lawmakers to approve another $202 million of state bonds for a national bio-defense laboratory at Kansas State University when the current legislative recess ends May 8.
Landon Fulmer, chief of staff for Brownback, outlined the proposal at Thursday's session of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The committee took no action on the request.
The 2010 Legislature pledged $105 million of proceeds from appropriations-backed bonds as the state's 20% match for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility when the price tag on the facility was $650 million.
Kansas also allocated $35 million to move the agricultural research efforts to the 46-acre site in Manhattan, Kan., from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, located off Long Island.
The laboratory is now expected to cost $1.15 billion, with the state's share rising to $342 million.
The bio-defense laboratory will study how to protect the nation's food supply against threats from animal diseases. It will operate under the auspices of the federal Department of Homeland Security, with research overseen by animal science agencies of the Agriculture Department.
Brownback said the additional bonds will allow the state to match the $714 million for the facility in the fiscal 2014 federal budget proposed earlier this month by President Obama.
"I appreciate President Obama's recommendation to invest more than $700 million for the completion of the NBAF," Brownback said. "I look forward to working with the Kansas Legislature to meet the requirements of the President's request by approving the additional bonding needed to complete this project."
The anticipated cost of building the bio-science lab ballooned as design changes were needed to make the facility safer and more secure, Fulmer told the Senate committee on Thursday.
"It's a significant change but it is the right thing to do right now," Fulmer said. Debt service on the bonds would be about $15 million a year, he said.
Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, warned the committee that any pathogens released from the research facility could devastate the state's agricultural economy.
"We're in the middle of cattle country," he said. "This whole thing just really concerns me greatly."
The laboratory complex would be built to withstand a major tornado or a truck bomb, Fulmer said.
Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, said he was concerned about the Kansas's ability to afford the additional bonds as revenues begin to slide from tax cuts enacted in 2012.
"You're asking us to do something really risky," he said to Fulmer. "We're going to have to kick this can down the road."
If the federal funding is included in the final budget bill, construction of the research laboratory will begin in May 2014 with completion set for 2018.
Kansas State University was selected in 2009 as the site for the bio-science laboratory project, beating competing proposals from universities in Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi.
Work is underway on an $80 million utility plant for the research facility.