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Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Funds may limit WSU improvements

February 19, 2002

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— State lawmakers said they would push for $30 million to improve aviation research facilities at Wichita State University, but they're not sure the money will be there.

"It's just simply a matter of the financial condition of the state," said Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Wichita State is seeking $10 million for a new engineering building. It would be financed by a $115 million bond issue that also would pay for a food safety building at Kansas State University and a biomedical research center at the Kansas University School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kan.

The state would pay back $50 million of the bonds starting in 2004, and the universities would pay back the rest.

Wichita's four airplane makers also have asked the Legislature for $20 million to pay for equipment and aviation research at Wichita State.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said she plans to support the industry's request, but she thinks it might run into opposition because of the state's cash shortage.

If some of the equipment can be included in the bond issue, lawmakers might find the proposal easier to accept, she said.

Sen. Steve Morris, the Hugoton Republican who heads the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said he hopes the proposals from both the universities and the aviation industry will be approved.

"I think it's critical to our state to maintain a very strong aviation presence," he said. "That's one of the cornerstones in our economy."

If lawmakers don't support economic development projects, the state's revenue could decline even more and make it harder to fund education and social programs, Morris said.

Aviation leaders have warned that Wichita could lose research projects and jobs if Wichita State's facilities aren't improved.

Boeing officials already have told lawmakers that Wichita cannot compete for work on the Sonic Cruiser, a new airliner scheduled for rollout in 2007 at the earliest, without the improvements.

The university wants to upgrade its laboratories for research in several areas, such as crash testing, the study of composite materials and experiments on aircraft icing.

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