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Archive for Friday, October 10, 2008

Sebelius criticizes Texas’ attempt, after deadline, to increase incentive package for National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility

October 10, 2008, 11:12 a.m. Updated October 10, 2008, 11:32 a.m.

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Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Friday cried foul over a proposal by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to up the ante in the bid for a federal biosecurity lab.

On Thursday, Perry said he wanted to increase Texas' incentive package by $56 million from $44 million to $100 million to lure to San Antonio the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

But Sebelius said the Department of Homeland Security, which will chose a site, shut the door on further incentive proposals months ago.

"I am concerned to hear the news that Texas is attempting to revise its cost-share proposal for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility," Sebelius said.

"It is critical to maintain the fundamental fairness and integrity of the NBAF site selection process, which clearly set a firm March 31, 2008, deadline for best and final cost-share proposals.

"In keeping with DHS' own deadline requirements, this revised offer by Texas should be rejected and not considered in the site selection," she said. Kansas has already committed $105 million to lure NBAF.

The dispute comes as DHS prepares to pick by the end of the year a location for the $451 million lab that will study the world's most dangerous diseases.

NBAF will replace an existing lab on Plum Island, N.Y. The facility could be built on the island, but in addition to Manhattan and San Antonio, other possible sites include Flora, Miss.; Athens, Ga.; and Butner, N.C.

Earlier this year, DHS had asked finalist sites to commit to paying for a utility plant for the lab and other improvements.

Kansas lawmakers quickly approved a measure to issue $105 million in bonds if the state is selected for the facility.

"There's no doubt Kansas provides DHS and the nation the most flexible, cost-effective and sensible pathway to getting the NBAF's important work under way - and we look forward to producing great results," Sebelius said.

Texas officials had earlier offered about $44 million in incentives, but Perry said he would seek another $56 million from the Texas Legislature, which will meet in January.

Perry and San Antonio officials said the incentive was needed to keep the city competitive, The Associated Press reported.

"In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to do this," Perry said, but "if it will bring jobs and wealth to Texas, it's appropriate for us to do that."

San Antonio saw telecommunications giant AT&T Inc. relocate its headquarters to Dallas earlier this year, and Toyota Motor Corp. idled its Tundra truck plant because of poor sales. So officials are eager to land the lab.

"This is probably one of the most important projects this community has worked on in a number of years," said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

To decide which site will work best, DHS will consider the land, construction costs, proximity to an available work force, community reaction and other factors, said DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.

Later this month, Sebelius will be leading a group of Kansas officials to Washington, D.C., for a follow-up meeting on the state's NBAF proposal.

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