The Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s Financial Assistance Program helps local governments secure loans to make water infrastructure improvements.
Since the program began in 1985, nearly $3 billion has been provided to counties and municipalities to build wells, improve sewer systems, install generators, and a host of other water projects.
The program allows localities to use the state’s credit to secure loans, instead of their own credit ratings, which are usually worse. But the program was finally stretched to its limit earlier this year.
That’s where State Question 764 comes in. 764 passed on Election Day and expands the amount OWRB can back up loans with to $300 million. Executive Director J.D. Strong says that translates to billions more in loans over the next several decades.
The lists of projects needing funding are long, but the OWRB says these are the top-five priorities:
Tecumseh Utility Authority
Construct a raw waterline from Wes Watkins Reservoir to Tecumseh Lake and upgrade the water treatment plant.
Pittsburg County Water Authority
Construct new chemical room and feed system, repair 60' clarifier, replace transfer pumps, repair filter valves and controls.
Goldsby Water Authority
Construct 2.5 miles of replacement 12" transmission line, and a replacement raw waterline from the well field to the water treatment plant.
Cleveland Municipal Authority
Four phase upgrade to water supply and treatment facilities that includes demolition of old, unused structures.
Osage County Rural Water District #21
Construct new well field and main supply line to proposed water treatment plant, and additional storage.
The boom, which peaked here in the mid-’60s, has evaporated. Meanwhile, the population is growing, and researchers say parts of the state are getting drier.
The situation is similar with dams. Throughout the country, dam building is a relic of the past. Most were built before 1970 — and thousands are more than a century old, writes Stateline’s Jim Malewitz:
The number of deficient dams in the U.S. — those with structural or hydraulic issues that increase the risk of failure — is rising dramatically, outpacing the rate at which they can be fixed. But as austerity continues across governments, funds for inspection and upkeep are static or shrinking in most states.
On one measure of dam safety, the Sooner State ranks poorly compared to other states. Basically: Oklahoma has a lot of dams and few inspectors.
The tax reform panel's recommendations appear to be a tax increase for most Oklahomans, state Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, told the Tulsa World.
A legislative task force is calling for cuts to Oklahoma’s top personal income tax level and the corporate income tax.
Obviously, both measures would mean a loss of state tax revenue.
To make up the difference, the Task Force on Comprehensive Tax Reform suggested eliminating dozens of tax credits and breaks, including the $1,000-per-person personal exemption about 80 percent of Oklahoman tax filers claim each year.