Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed a bill Monday aimed at making Kansas a leader in biosciences and revitalizing struggling rural communities.
Republican legislative leaders have touted the act as a foundation for the next generation of economic growth. They contend it would help create up to 20,000 biosciences jobs by 2015 and a similar number in small businesses through technical and financial support.
Sebelius signed the Kansas Economic Growth Act during a ceremony in Liberal, with a second event planned later Monday in Lenexa.
"The components of this much-needed economic bill will stimulate communities across the state," Sebelius said in a statement. "Whether urban or rural, big or small, every Kansas community can benefit from opportunities for growth and development."
Legislators and the governor pushed the package during the 2004 session, hoping to broaden the state's economic base and decrease the reliance on agriculture and aviation, which have struggled in recent years. In March, Kansas had an unemployment rate of 5 percent, compared to 5.6 percent in March 2003.
Architects of the package were Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, and Sen. Nick Jordan, R-Shawnee, but the Democratic governor endorsed it early in the legislative session. Legislators approved the bill April 2, just before they left Topeka for their spring recess.
The new law creates the Kansas Biosciences Authority, charged with recruiting promising scholars and leading researchers. The authority could issue bonds to finance the development of research centers and provide financial help to fledgling companies.
Under the law, tax revenue generated by new bioscience companies and small businesses will be reinvested in their initiatives, an estimated $593 million during the next 11 years.
The act also establishes the Kansas Center for Entrepreneurship within the Department of Commerce. The center will provide financial support for startup businesses in rural or distressed communities. Training and other support would be offered through the center.
Investors looking to help startup companies would be eligible for income tax credits under the act.
One program provides tax credits to regional organizations to encourage individuals, businesses and financial institutions to donate to regional economic foundations. A second creates the Kansas Angel Investor Tax Credit, allowing a 50 percent tax credit, up to $50,000, for cash investments in a qualified business.
A final part of the new law creates state incentives for cities and counties to redeveloped distressed downtown areas. The program is similar to how communities now seek to encourage industrial development by giving property owners to rebates on property taxes.