Corn, Okla., Mayor Barbara Nurnberg outside city hall in January 2016.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Budget Crisis Could Leave Small Towns With Big Infrastructure Problems ‘Dead In The Water’

It costs a lot of money to clean, transport and dispose of water. Big cities can spread the cost of multi-million dollar sewer or treatment projects across thousands of customers. But many small Oklahoma towns don’t have that option, and often rely on a state-funded grant program that’s being squeezed by budget cuts. Crumbling Infrastructure Tiny Corn, Oklahoma, has a big problem. A proper town needs a reliable sewer system, but the lagoon that’s supposed to hold the town’s wastewater has hol...
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Five years ago, Tonia Sina was diagnosed with a blood-clotting disorder called atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Photo illustration by Brent Fuchs and Bryan M. Richter / The Journal Record

There’s no shortage of issues to address when it comes to the $900-million-and-counting budget shortfall over the next four months of legislative session.

The number could grow larger when the Board of Equalization certifies new numbers later this month. In Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive budget unveiled Monday during her State of the State address, most state agencies will see a 6 percent cut. Some, like the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, will take a smaller 3 percent hit.

Tim Cross, chief operator of the water treatment plant in Chandler, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Many of the programs protecting Oklahoma’s air and land are paid for with fees and federal dollars. Oversight and inspection of local water systems, however, are funded by state revenue that has dwindled — and failed.

Chandler, a city of about 3,000 residents, like many small communities in Oklahoma, has struggled with deteriorating pipes and pumps, limited funding to make repairs and upgrades, and increasing demands to provide clean water to more and more customers.

weldonlibrary / Flickr Creative Commons

Philadelphia wants to create a universal pre-kindergarten program, not unlike the one Oklahoma adopted years ago. It’s part of a growing movement nationwide in favor of universal pre-K at both the municipal and state level.

As part of the PBS Newshour’s Tuesday education series “Making the Grade,” special correspondent Cat Wise examined how deeply conservative Oklahoma’s idea that’s typically popular on the left became a model for other states to emulate.

SandRidge Energy in downtown Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

SandRidge Energy Inc. confirmed Wednesday morning it laid off 172 people at its Oklahoma City headquarters this week. CEO James Bennet said in a press release that the company would not waver from making tough decisions to protect the long-term stability of the business.

wind turbine
Tamsin Slater / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, wants to end a federal tax subsidy for the production of electricity through wind power. The freshman Republican introduced legislation that would not allow any more companies to qualify for the tax credit after 2019.

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb shorlty before the State of the State address Monday at the Oklahoma state Capitol.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

There’s a new political foundation in Oklahoma, and some of the members’ names come up frequently during discussions about Oklahoma business and government.

Last year, Michael Carnuccio left the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs to become president of the E Foundation.

“This is a group of individuals that have created substantial economic impact,” Carnuccio said. “They're in multiple industries: Energy, obviously. Higher education is another area that we have. Aerospace. Agriculture.”

Norman Public Schools bus
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Four Norman North High School wrestlers pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of sexually assaulting two other wrestlers last month.

They appeared in Garvin County District Court with their parents and attorneys. 18-year-old Tanner Shipman, 17-year-old Sage Gandenberger, and 16-year-old Chase Smith face three counts of rape by instrumentation.

Scientists still can't predict an earthquake. The U.S. government, however, has a warning system in the works that it hopes could quickly send out a widespread alarm before most people feel a rumble — and save lives when seconds count.

The recently upgraded network of seismometers and computers, known as ShakeAlert, is advancing through the prototype-testing stage, Sally Jewell, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Chai at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.
Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo. / Creative Commons/Google Images

Following the death of a 37 year old female elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo, the Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants requested a United States Department of Agriculture investigation of the zoo and the conditions surrounding the animals’ wellbeing on Tuesday. Chai, one of two elephants transferred eight months ago from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, was found dead by zookeepers on Saturday morning.

Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her 2016 State of the State address Feb. 1, 2016.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In her State of the State address on Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin called for shortened prison sentences, higher taxes on cigarettes and a $3,000 a year pay hike for all teachers.

Fallin also proposed a 6 percent cut for most state agencies in Fiscal Year 2017, with certain exceptions, and generating more revenue by eliminating some of the $8 billion in annual sales tax exemptions. Fallin's proposals come amid a budget crisis in which the state must offset a nearly $1 billion budget hole caused mainly by a plunge in oil prices. Income tax cuts have contributed to the revenue drop.

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