Archive for Friday, March 4, 2011

Democratic and Republican leaders warn that senator’s KBA inquiries could hurt NBAF efforts

March 4, 2011


— Democratic and Republican leaders said Friday that state Sen. Susan Wagle’s inquiries into the financial dealings of the Kansas Bioscience Authority could jeopardize efforts to get the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility built in Kansas.

Wagle, R-Wichita, said the criticism was off-base.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said, “I think that Sen. Wagle is playing a dangerous game of high-stakes poker.”

Anything negative related to the KBA, an organization that helped Kansas win NBAF, could affect congressional funding of the project, Hensley said.

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, agreed.

“It’s not helpful,” Morris said.

State legislative leaders said because Congress is intent on cutting federal spending, Kansas officials need to stand unified to protect NBAF funding. President Barack Obama has recommended $150 million in his budget proposal for the facility this year.

Wagle, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has held hearings into salaries and spending at KBA. She also wants an audit done of the agency.

Wagle said her goal is to help NBAF. “I’m making sure NBAF is a success by making sure the Bioscience Authority is accountable for its actions and expenditures,” she said. “It looks worse if we do nothing. Everyone wants the Bioscience Authority to be successful, but to not check into allegations would be irresponsible.”

The Commerce Committee has produced a bill that would change the structure of the KBA’s governing board. But Senate Majority Leader Jay Scott Emler, R-Lindsborg, said the Senate hasn’t debated that bill because it would make it appear that Kansas officials are not unified on NBAF.

“We don’t need any negative publicity,” he said.

Gov. Sam Brownback and state legislative leaders were in Washington, D.C., earlier this week to lobby for NBAF funding.

Morris said he felt confident that Congress would come through with the funding, but added that Kansas officials must continue to work with Congress on the issue.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, who also went on the trip to Washington, said he believed the federal funding “appears to be on track.”


blindrabbit 7 years, 2 months ago

If there are accountability problems with KBA (which sounds like there may be) why should we Kansans cover up the problem. If there is some embarrassment, then so be it; two wrongs don't make a right. I'm not sure the NABF is a good idea here anyway; there was some reason it has been located in at remote non-agricultural (Plum Island, New York) area where a release of toxins and biologicals could be more easily controlled. Remember what happened in Britain and Europe when Hoof and Mouth disease got away from them several years ago; it nearly wiped out the livestock industry.

olddognewtrix 7 years, 2 months ago

It wouild have been better to leave Speaker Oneal at home where he can only foul the nest in Topeka.

Phil Minkin 7 years, 2 months ago

Although I generally think Waggle is a loon, there may be something here, although she seems to be going at it in a predictable whacko way. While the NABF may be a great thing for the state, we can't just blindly allow it to go on unchecked on every level just because of the benefits. Lybia points out that you can't turn a blind eye toward wrongdoing, just because of financial benefits.

kugrad 7 years, 2 months ago

The headlines make it seem like KBA does a lot of crazy things with the money they manage. This is sensationalizing the story. What seems to be at the heart of this is a legitimate concern that 2 or 3 key employees are being overpaid. In particular, there appears to be a valid concern about what sort of salary range the director of the KBA should have. This is a job of some responsibility and qualifications, but the reported salary does seem to be higher than would be required to attract a qualified candidate and higher than basically any university faculty member would ever hope to earn (including the top 100 highest paid). I think a case could be made that the director is overpaid.

My point is that having a very small number of people being overpaid is a relatively small and correctable problem. There is no huge problem with the actual performance of KBA or their non-salary use of monies.

James MacMurray 7 years, 2 months ago

The heads of KPERS & PMIB are responsible for managing far larger sums of money compared to KBA and make much less than Thorton. Wagle is asking some legitimate questions but it looks like leadership wants to whitewash it.

KPERS $11 billion PMIB $2.5 billion KBA $600 million when they have comletely ramped up

sr80 7 years, 2 months ago

I think i will call my senator in D.C. and let him in on what the children back home are doing. I know they are concerned about all the wasteful spending going on in D.C. why don't they begin at home, but then do you think that will accomplish anything .?

susieparker 7 years, 2 months ago

Lack of transparency will hurt NBAF. Clean up the mess that is the KBA and get on with it. How much was paid to the consultants that were hired to determine salaries for KBA staff? Why would consultants need to be hired for something like that? Doesn't the Board of Directors have enough collective sense and business experience to determine compensation without spending even more money hiring a consultant?

susieparker 7 years, 2 months ago

Since when is the truth negative publicity?

Bob Reinsch 7 years, 2 months ago

Wagle wouldn't be throwing a hissy-fit if more money were coming into Wichita. They've got one big KBA funded project down there that can't generate any results on their own. KU and K-State have a track record of success in earning federal research dollars. The CIBOR fiasco down in Wichita has had to EXCLUSIVELY depend on political manipulation to get their funding - not a single NIH or NSF grant. The KBA is keeping the purse strings tight with that group, and why shouldn't they? The CIBOR group is making claims of great advancements, yet they can't get a single grant? I'm calling shananigans. Wagle wants to retool the KBA so more money goes to Wichita. Period.

Tim Quest 7 years, 2 months ago

When trying to discern who's right and who's wrong in any situation, you have to start with the premise that Wagle is an insane moron and work backwards from there.

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