- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A state panel would have the power to sell the assets of a privatization-bound state economic development agency under a bill discussed in a Kansas Senate committee.

The Kansas Bioscience Authority’s board made the decision to become a private institution in December after its funding was cut and withheld by legislators. The measure giving the State Finance Council authority to sell the authority’s property and assets was discussed Wednesday in the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee. No action was taken, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1TSP7O2 ) reports.

Gov. Sam Brownback has already budgeted $25 million in revenue from the sale into the 2017 fiscal year budget.

“This was an enormous decision by our board of directors,” said KBA president and CEO Kevin Lockett. “Clearly everyone is on board with this.”

“We’re seeking approval to continue to move forward,” said Lockett. “Once we get this approval, we can continue down this path of finding a long-term solution.”

The State Finance Council is made up of the governor and legislative leaders, including the speaker of the Kansas House, president of the Kansas Senate and leading Democrats.

The KBA, created in 2004 as a public institution, has a mixed record of success. Proponents credit the agency with spurring startups and attracting investors in biotechnology companies. Critics point to a 2012 audit that found its former president had misspent KBA funds on private travel and shredded documents when faced with the possibility of an audit.

“It’s just very sad to be here today and recognize we’re undoing, we’re killing, probably the best economic development tool that we’ve had,” said Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, who compared the process to a funeral service.

Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, asked Lockett whether this is a good time for the state to sell KBA’s assets.

“I would say the sooner the better,” he responded.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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