Topeka 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.”