The Garden City Telegram
4/15/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

NBAF funds

Even conservatives praise plan for federal spending.

Good news came to Kansas by way of President Obama's proposed budget.

The plan sent to Congress included $714 million in federal funding for a new federal biosecurity lab in Kansas. The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility would be the nation's premier research facility for developing vaccines and countermeasures for diseases that threaten livestock and other animals, and located at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Development of the $1.1 billion lab also requires financial commitments from Kansas. State lawmakers must come up with an additional $202 million in state support for the project, which hasn't been included in versions of the budget legislators currently are negotiating.

Kansas agreed when it was awarded the NBAF project to contribute 20 percent of the cost of construction. The state already has issued $105 million in bonds and $35 million from the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

Even a Kansas Legislature dominated by conservative Republicans should embrace the opportunity to work with the White House on such a valuable venture — one expected to deliver an economic impact in Kansas estimated at $3.5 billion over the next two decades.

The NBAF promises to spur development of associated industries throughout Kansas, with jobs created that could help keep young Kansans home and lure others to work in the field.

Biotechnology is a fast growing economic development sector nationwide. The Sunflower State should be part of that movement.

With a wealth of animal health and research expertise, Kansas must play to its strengths in luring business and industry that help fuel the economy.

Thanks to the federal budget plan, the state now stands to be at the forefront of an effort to protect the food we eat, and the ag economy as a whole.

The recent news was all the more notable considering ongoing negotiations on reducing spending at the federal level. Keeping the current NBAF research lab in New York even was considered.

Of course, Kansas Republicans — Gov. Sam Brownback included — who've hammered the Democratic president for federal spending, applauded the NBAF funding decision.

As hypocritical as that may seem, the expenditure should be easy to embrace.