Editorial: Good investment

Restored state funding may be a vote of confidence in the Kansas Bioscience Authority’s new investment strategy.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to veto plans to transfer $5 million earmarked for early childhood programs into the Kansas Bioscience Authority’s budget has drawn praise from children’s advocates across the state.

As it turns out, the veto not only was good news for childhood programs but also not-so-bad news for the KBA.

According to news reports, KBA still will get its $5 million, but that money will come from state reserves rather than from the Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund, which was created with revenue from the state’s tobacco settlement. The even better news is that the $5 million is just a portion of the $34 million in state funding approved this year for the KBA.

That’s about what KBA was receiving from the state for a number of years after its founding in 2004. However, funding for the agency created to promote the bioscience industry in Kansas had declined dramatically in recent years. KBA received only about $4 million in state funding for the current fiscal year.

The increased funding approved for the next fiscal year appears to be a vote of confidence in the new leadership and new direction of the KBA. Duane Cantrell took over as KBA’s chief executive officer in November 2012 and recently was rewarded with $150,000 in bonuses by the group’s board of directors. The bonuses were justified, the board said, by Cantrell’s success in meeting goals related to repositioning the agency in response to state budget cuts. Cantrell examined KBA investments and de-committed $59 million to companies that weren’t hitting their development goals. The plan was to move the KBA toward a more market-based and self-sustaining future as a venture capital organization.

Those efforts may have impressed state legislators. Taking more money from the state’s already strained reserves may not be desirable, but the additional $5 million is a good investment in the state’s bioscience efforts.

The additional state funding approved for next year will shore up KBA operations and help it make more investments that hopefully will assure its continued operation and success after state tax support sunsets in 2019.