- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Members of the Kansas congressional delegation are hailing a federal budget agreement that provides more than $620 million in funding for projects in the state.

The bill, which has been agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators, contains $404 million for the next round of construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility near Kansas State University in Manhattan. It also contains $219 million for military construction at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita in advance of the stationing of new KC-46A refueling tankers.

The House was expected to vote on the bill Wednesday and the Senate by the weekend. The first order of business was to pass a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating until the deal is finished.

The bill contains the spending for several government agencies and is based on the budget agreement reached last month by Republicans and Democrats.

Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, both Kansas Republicans, said Tuesday that the funding was important to the two state projects and their roles for national defense.

“With this action, the Congress has affirmed that NBAF will continue to be built in Manhattan at Kansas State University,” Roberts said. “If the support of the Congress was ever in doubt, that is put to rest now.”

The $1.25 billion NBAF will replace an aging facility at Plum Island, N.Y., and conduct research on deadly animal pathogens.

Kansas officials have approved spending up to $305 million in bond proceeds as part of its cost to construct the lab. Officials have said the new facility will provide hundreds of high-paying jobs for researchers and scientists, as well as being a catalyst for continued growth in agriculture research industries that stretch from the Flint Hills of Kansas to Columbia, Mo.

Construction on the main laboratory facility is expected to begin in this year. The Department of Homeland Security has not published a date for beginning operations.

The Air Force has selected McConnell as one of the first bases to have the new tankers, which will replace the nation’s fleet of KC-135s that began service when President Dwight Eisenhower was in office. The KC-46A tanker fleet will begin arriving at McConnell in 2016, bringing more than 200 airmen to the base.

“The selection of McConnell AFB as the home for the new KC-46A tanker fleet translates into an economic boost for the community, which will endure for years to come as each phase of preparation gets underway,” Moran said in a statement. “This investment is great news for our state and the city of Wichita, which is and will remain the air capital of the world.”

Projects at the Air Force base include an installation of weapon system trainers and construction of hangars, parking space and a hydrant fuel system. A squadron operations and aircraft maintenance unit building also will be built at the base.