PARCA Annual Survey Addresses Representation in State Government, Public Education and Payday Loans

PARCA collaborated with Samford University to conduct our annual telephone survey of Alabama citizens between June 4 and July 18, 2018. The survey was directed by Dr. Randolph Horn and was under the field direction of Grace Okoro.

The survey addressed topics including the quality of representation in state government, and, in partnership with the Alabama Association of School Boards, questions about public education in Alabama, and, in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, questions about payday loans.

Many trends remained the same from previous years, but some of the results were surprising.

Read the full report here. (PDF)


Crime and Public Safety Ranks #7 Among Alabama Voter Priorities

In late 2017, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) surveyed Alabama voters to determine their thoughts about the general direction of the state and the issues that most concern them. PARCA partnered with Samford University to survey policy professionals from across the state including academics, journalists, business and nonprofit leaders, and lobbyists. Their responses provided a list of 17 critical issues facing Alabama. PARCA partnered with USA Polling at the University of South Alabama to ask registered voters about these 17 issues. The voters’ responses generated the Top Ten list of voter priorities. Details about the survey and its methodology can be found in the full Alabama Priorities report.

Alabama Priorities

1. K-12 Education
2. Healthcare
3. Government Corruption and Ethics
4. Mental Health and Substance Abuse
5. Poverty and Homelessness
6. Jobs and the Economy
7. Crime and Public Safety
8. Job Training and Workforce Development
9. Improving the State's Image
10. Tax Reform

Key Findings

• Voters broadly agree on the critical issues facing the state.
• Voters are not polarized along traditional political, ideological, racial, or generational lines. There is a significant gap between the priorities of experts and the priorities of voters.
• Policymakers have an opportunity to inform and educate voters on critical and systemic challenges facing the state.
• Policymakers have an opportunity to respond to immediate, often highly personal issues that concern voters.
• Elected officials and candidates have an opportunity to show leadership and to build broad coalitions to address Alabama’s most pressing challenges.

In the following months, PARCA will produce summary briefs on each of the top ten priorities chosen by Alabama voters. Each brief will answer four critical questions: what is the issue, why it matters, how Alabama compares, and what options are available to Alabama policymakers.

#7: Crime and Public Safety

What is the Issue?

Alabama voters ranked crime and public safety as the 7th most important issue among the priorities, with approximately 58% of voters indicating they were very concerned about the issue. The issue averaged 4.10 on a 1 – 5 scale where 1 is “not at all concerned” and 5 is “very concerned.”

Majorities of every racial group are very concerned about this issue. Approximately three-quarters of African-Americans say they are very concerned. Respondents with lower incomes are more likely to say they are very concerned than respondents with higher incomes. While majorities of conservatives and liberals say they are very concerned, only a plurality (more than any other category but not a majority) of self-described moderates holds this view.

Survey respondents were also asked about their top policy responses to crime and public safety. Twenty-seven percent of voters were more concerned about the number of police, 24% civil liberties, and lesser percentages identifying sentencing reform and conditions of state prisons as their top priority.

Why Is Crime and Public Safety Important?

In previous generations, a basic high school education was sufficient for entry into the workforce. Today, an increasing share of entry-level jobs require a level of training beyond a high school diploma. To generate a prepared workforce, there is continued need to improve preparation for and access to two and four-year colleges. However, the demand for advanced training is also being addressed by K-12 schools, where students are increasingly presented with options for earning industry-recognized credentials while still in high school. Certificate programs are being expanded for new graduates and current workers.

Alabama has enjoyed an unprecedented run of industrial recruitment and new job creation. According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, the state has added or announced 138,197 new jobs between 2010 and 2017. In that same time, employment in Alabama has grown from 1,893,169 to 2,081,176 – an increase of 188,007, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.8% (December 2017). Recent monthly unemployment rates for the state have hovered between 3.7 and 4.1%, the lowest numbers since at least 1976. Despite the surging demand for labor, Alabama’s population growth has been sluggish, creating a tight labor market and a pending shortage of workers.

How Does Alabama Compare?

Crime has many negative impacts on a community.

Crime and the response to crime create a large economic and social cost, including the direct economic losses suffered by victims and the costs of police protection, legal services, and corrections.

Crime data and perceptions of public safety are widely used in quality of life rankings, which can impact the perceived livability and desirability of a community.[1]

High crime rates deter business. Crime can reduce the size and skills of the labor force. Crime can have a negative impact on education and training, diminishing the long-term creativity and innovative capacity of a community. Crime can deter business investment and location.

The economic, societal, familial, and personal costs of incarceration are immense.

Public safety plays a crucial role in supporting economic growth and vitality by reducing the cost of crime and enhancing the desirability of communities as places to live and locate businesses and has a direct impact on the levels of societal trust and interaction.[2]

How Does Alabama Compare?

The Crime Rate

Alabama reported 532.3[3] violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2016, placing Alabama 8th highest in the nation for violent crimes. Alabama fared worse than most Southeastern states, except Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas. The state fared somewhat better in terms of property crimes, ranking 14th in the nation. Alabama’s property crime index for 2016 was 2,947.8 per 100,000 residents but was lower than that of only four Southeastern states. When violent and property crimes are considered together, Alabama ranked 9th in the nation with a crime index of 3,480.1 per 100,000 residents.

According to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s annual crime report[4], total crime in the state has decreased from 2011 to 2015 but increased roughly 2% from 2015 to 2016.

However, during this same period, the number of violent crimes increased every year except between 2012 and 2014. Violent crime in the state increased from 405.5 per 100,000 residents in 2014 to 518.2 in 2016.

Although the number of violent crimes increased significantly over that two-year period, the number of crimes cleared has been decreasing.[5] In 2014, 45% of violent crimes were cleared, but that percentage decreased to 39% in 2016. The clearance rate for total crime in the state has also been declining over the same period.

The Incarceration Rate

In 2016, there were 27,799 inmates in Alabama prisons, a rate of 633 people per 100,000 – the 3rd highest incarceration rate in the U.S. The state’s incarceration rate is significantly higher than the national rate of 471 per 100,000 residents and lower than only Oklahoma and Louisiana; 700 and 816 per 100,000 residents, respectively.

The high number of incarcerations makes the state’s prisons the most overcrowded in the country; housing almost twice the number of inmates the facilities were designed to house.

In addition to a high incarceration rate, the ratio of supervising probation and parole officers to probationers, parolees, and offenders poses a significant problem for the state’s system. At the end of fiscal year 2017, the total caseload average per officer on any given day was measured at 169 to 1. When broken down by total and active caseloads, the active caseload average per officer was 110 to 1. The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) recommended caseload is 20 probationers per probation officer for intensive supervision, 50 to 1 for moderate to high-risk offenders, and 200 to 1 for low-risk offenders.

The Recidivism Rate

Recidivism, which refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior and is measured by criminal acts that result in rearrests, reconviction, or return to prison within three years, is a major driver of incarceration rates.

In 2017, the recidivism rate in Alabama was 31.5%, including all cohorts.[6] The high percent of recidivists continues to negatively impact the state’s prison system which is already overburdened. It also sheds light on the need for more effective programs to help released prisoners readjust to their communities and rebuild their lives.

Juvenile Detention

The percentage of violent crimes and property crimes committed by juveniles in Alabama decreased since 2013. As of 2016, juveniles account for 6% of violent crimes and property crimes.

Despite the decline in juvenile crime, the number of detained juveniles is also a cause for concern. Alabama’s juvenile custody rate of 184 per 100,000 youths places the state 20th in the nation. When compared to Southeastern states, the state ranked 3rd with only Arkansas and Virginia having higher rates.

There is a long-term impact on juveniles with criminal convictions that goes beyond the immediate effect to individual and family. A study from University of Pittsburgh found that 52% to 57% of juvenile delinquents continue to offend up to the age of 25, and about 16 – 19% up to the age of 30.[7]

Funding

Like many parts of state government, Alabama’s corrections and justice systems struggle with funding. Alabama spends less on corrections than a majority of states across the country.

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections 2017 Annual Report, Alabama spent $52.07 per day per inmate, compared to the national average of $99.45.

Alabama’s low per inmate spending may be seen as a positive by some. However, it is important to remember that with this level of spending comes a Department of Corrections that is understaffed, pays the lowest of any public safety agency in the state, and which suffers from very high turnover rates. The state’s corrections spending also contributes to legal issues facing the state. Alabama is currently engaged in two different lawsuits concerning the healthcare and conditions of Alabama’s prisons. It is highly likely that the outcome of these cases will result in court-mandated increases in Alabama’s corrections budget.

Beyond funding Alabama’s prison system, Alabama’s funding for judicial, legal and police protection is also low. Based on 2016 expenditure data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Alabama’s justice system expenditures, which include police protection, judicial and legal, and corrections, were low when compared to more than 30 states across the country and most Southeastern states. In 2016, the state spent $2.5 billion, while other southeastern states spent a significantly higher amount (example Florida’s 2016 expenditures totaled roughly $14 billion and Georgia approximately $6 billion).

What Can We Do?

The state has made recent attempts to address overcrowding in prisons, the high rate of supervision caseloads, and the lack of treatment in the community. In 2015, the state passed the Justice Reinvestment Act (Act 2015-185), which strengthened community-based supervision as an alternative to prison, while prioritizing prison space for violent and dangerous offenders. The legislation also took steps to ensure supervision for everyone upon release from prison. Since then, the state’s prison population has decreased by 15%, and more than 100 new probation and parole officers have been hired to help reduce officers’ caseloads.

In June 2018, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced pay raises of 5% for correctional officers at medium security facilities and 10% for officers at maximum security facilities.

Further reductions of the inmate population will be challenging, and additional investment in the prison system will be fiscally and politically difficult – although court orders may leave the state with no choice.

There are additional options the state can explore, including:

  • Continued expansion of day reporting facilities[8] and related programs designed to reduce recidivism;
  • Explore recommendations of the Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force[9] designed to reform the retention of juvenile offenders; and
  • Expand mental health and drug treatment options both inside state prisons and in local communities.

 

Drafted by Kenesha Reynolds-Allie, Ph.D. and the Staff of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama

View the full PDF report here.


[1] Blair, J.P., “Quality of life and economic development policy”, Economic Development Review 16, 1998.

[2] Keeling, Mary and Mark Cleverly, “Accelerating economic growth and vitality through smarter public safety management”, IBM Institute for Business Value, Executive Report.

[3] Crime index (violent and property crimes) was calculated using 2016 Crime in the United States (CIUS) data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s)  and 2016 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division (https://www.factfinder.census.gov)

[4] http://www.alea.gov/Home/wfContent.aspx?PLH1=plhACJIC-CrimeInAlabama

[5] A clearance is a measure of law enforcement activity whereby enough evidence is found to charge a suspect and take him into custody (an arrest) or when a crime is solved but no formal charges are brought against a suspect (clearance by exceptional means).

[6] Alabama Department of Corrections – FY2017 Annual Report (http://www.doc.state.al.us/StatReports)

[7] Stouthamer-Loeber, Magda, “Persistence and Desistance in Offending” (unpolished report, Pittsburg, Pa.: Life History Research Program, University of Pittsburg, 2010).

[8] Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2017 Annual Report http://www.pardons.state.al.us/Reports.aspx

[9] Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force Final Report, December 2017. http://dys.alabama.gov/images/task_force/AL%20JJ%20Task%20Force%20Report_FINAL.pdf


PARCA Wins National Award for Research on Regional Cooperation

The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama’s research report Together We Can: Charting a Course to Cooperation for Greater Birmingham received national recognition by the Governmental Research Association (GRA) at the GRA’s annual conference in Detroit last week.

PARCA received the GRA award for “Most Distinguished Research” on a regional government issue for its ongoing work to examine the current structure of government in Greater Birmingham, with Jefferson County as its primary focus. The study sought to answer three questions. Is the region fragmented? If yes, does fragmentation produce negative consequences? If yes, are there viable options to reduce fragmentation and increase regional cooperation? In all three questions, we found the answer to be yes.

Together We Can was commissioned by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham in conjunction with their ongoing project Together We Prosper, a campaign to get the people of the Birmingham metro area talking about how we can work together better to help our entire community prosper and compete in a global economy.

The award was given based on several criteria, including the use of new and/or innovative research methods, or new and/or innovative uses of existing methods; usefulness of the study to other states and/or municipalities; and, whether or not the subject is one of critical national, regional, or local concern or costs.

This is the 11th national award that PARCA has received from the GRA, which was founded in 1914 as the national organization of individuals involved in government research. GRA’s annual awards competition is conducted to “recognize exceptional individuals involved in government research.”


The State’s Image Ranks #9 among Alabama Voter Priorities

In late 2017, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) surveyed Alabama voters to determine their thoughts about the general direction of the state and the issues that most concern them. PARCA partnered with Samford University to survey policy professionals from across the state including academics, journalists, business and nonprofit leaders, and lobbyists. Their responses provided a list of 17 critical issues facing Alabama. PARCA partnered with USA Polling at the University of South Alabama to ask registered voters about these 17 issues. The voters’ responses generated the Top Ten list of voter priorities. Details about the survey and its methodology can be found in the full Alabama Priorities report at www.parcalabama.org

Alabama Priorities

1. K-12 Education
2. Healthcare
3. Government Corruption and Ethics
4. Mental Health and Substance Abuse
5. Poverty and Homelessness
6. Jobs and the Economy
7. Crime and Public Safety
8. Job Training and Workforce Development
9. Improving the State's Image
10. Tax Reform


Key Findings

Voters broadly agree on the critical issues facing the state.

Voters are not polarized along traditional political, ideological, racial, or generational lines. There is a significant gap between the priorities of experts and the priorities of voters.

Policymakers have an opportunity to inform and educate voters on critical and systemic challenges facing the state.

Policymakers have an opportunity to respond to immediate, often highly personal issues that concern voters.

Elected officials and candidates have an opportunity to show leadership and to build broad coalitions to address Alabama’s most pressing challenges.

In the following months, PARCA will produce summary briefs on each of the top ten priorities chosen by Alabama voters. Each brief will answer four critical questions: what is the issue, why it matters, how Alabama compares, and what options are available to Alabama policymakers.

#9: The State’s Image

What is the Issue?

The state’s image is the 9th most important issue for Alabama voters, with 57% of survey respondents indicating they are very concerned about improving the state’s image.

When examining the top ten priorities by population, the state’s image made the top ten for most groups. Interestingly, the issue ranked higher for older voters and for those with lower incomes and levels of education.

Some would say that Alabama’s image is well earned. Alabama ranks poorly compared to other states in many measures of corruption, education, health, income, and general well-being – issues that will be explored more fully in future briefs.

The State’s Image by Group – asterisks (*) indicates the issue did not rank in the top ten

Alabamians are reminded of this fact frequently. Every few days there is a story in the media highlighting how Alabama compares to other states on some measure. A simple web search generates many such rankings – some concerning more substantive issues than others and some rankings compiled with more rigor than others. In just the last few weeks, Alabama has been ranked as:

  • 42nd in child-well being[1]
  • schools rank 42nd in the nation[2]
  • #3 in speed-related deaths[3]
  • #1 for fast-food restaurants per capita[4]
  • 41st in places to start a business[5]
  • 40th in children’s health[6]
  • 49th in hiring people with disabilities[7]

Rankings such as these do not tell the whole story, but as has been said, perception is reality.

Why is the State’s Image Important?

Perception

Alabama, like other southern states, labors under stereotypical and outdated assumptions about the rural south: remote, uneducated, and uncivilized. This narrative continues to be nurtured in popular culture and, sometimes by the state and its people. Alabamians, however, and those that visit, know that these descriptions do not reflect the state.

Fairly or not, Alabama must contend with its reputation when attracting new industry and new investment to Alabama. At the same time, the state has been relatively successful on this front in recent years, suggesting that perceptions can be challenged.

Economic developers know that quality of life is fast becoming one of the most important factors businesses consider when choosing a new location. When recruiting a new industry or a new employee, business leaders in Alabama often say, ‘if we can get them to visit, we can get them to stay.’

Reality

At the same time, while some aspects of the state’s image might be misguided or stereotypical, other aspects are based in reality. On average, Alabama students do lag behind their peers in most states. On average, Alabamians are more unhealthy than residents in many other states. Alabama’s median income is in the bottom five in the country, and the state’s recovery from the Great Recession has been slower than many other states.

These are real issues affecting real people, every day – regardless of the state’s reputation.

As noted, the state’s image emerged as a higher priority for voters with lower levels of income and education. The issue also ranked higher for voters generally (9th) than for policy professionals (16th). This could be because policy professionals believe that the best way to change the state’s image is indirectly, by addressing the individual factors that create the image. They are not wrong.

However, that the issue ranks so highly for voters underscores the extent to which voters believe the state’s image affects them personally. We suggest that people with more resources – more education, skills, and income – are held less captive by the state’s reputation. They also have more ability to relocate to other parts of the state or to leave the state altogether to seek other opportunities. Conversely, those with fewer resources – less education, skills, and income – may be, or feel, stuck. In other words, their prospects and those of their families may be more intimately tied with those of the state, their county, and their town.

How Does Alabama Compare?

Rather than attempting to measure Alabama’s image compared to other states, we look at three indicators as proxies: job creation, economic growth, and population. These metrics do not constitute image – but we suggest that the same factors that drive these metrics also drive the larger concept of image.

Job Creation

According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, the state has added or announced 138,197 new jobs and $35.2 billion in investment between 2010 and 2017. This suggests Alabama is increasingly attractive to business. However, as with many issues, the distribution of new jobs is not equal. In 2017, 19 counties reported zero jobs from new industry and three counties reported no new jobs from industry expansion.

Economic Growth

The effects of job growth – and decreasing unemployment – are beginning to show in the state’s GDP. Alabama experienced 3.3% growth between 2016 and 2017, outpacing recent trends, but below its southeastern neighbors. For the period 2010 to 2017, Alabama’s compounded annual growth rate is estimated at 2.7%, lower than every other southern state except Mississippi and Louisiana – and far behind regional leaders Tennessee (4.6%), Georgia (4.3%), and South Carolina (4.2%).

Population

The state may be adding jobs and seeing a positive trend in GDP, but these trends are not correlating to population growth. The state’s image surely plays a large role in people’s decisions to move to, or remain in, Alabama – and in recent years, Alabama has struggled to compete with surrounding states.

Between 2010 and 2017, the population of southern states has grown an average of 5.6%. Florida leads the pack at 11.6%. More comparable to Alabama however, are South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. These states have grown 8.6%, 7.7%, and 7.6% respectively.

Comparatively, in this same period, Alabama grew at 2.0%. This translates to a net population increase of 95,000 people in seven years – compared to an increase of 398,988 in South Carolina – a state that was approximately the same size as Alabama in 2010.

Moreover, the source of our population growth is telling. In the past seven years, Alabama has added population through natural growth (number of births minus number of death) and international migration. Alabama’s rate of international in-migration is much slower than most states, and its rate of domestic migration is lower than most other Southeastern states. Domestic migration – people moving from other states to Alabama – has accounted for a net increase of 1,153 people – less than 1% of the state’s population growth since 2010.

Alabama is adding jobs – but not people.  Alabama did see a larger year-over-year population increase in 2017. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new trend.

What Can We Do?

What, then, does this suggest for policy makers?

We suggest that policy makers recognize and prioritize the issues that give rise to a negative reputation. They have a real and profound impact on real people’s lives. As Alabama finds and implements effective responses to education, healthcare, jobs and the economy, crime and more – the state’s image will improve. More importantly, the lives of Alabamians will improve.

At the same time, leaders have an opportunity to remind Alabamians, and a larger national and international audience, of a broader story.

Alabama is emerging as a leader in advanced manufacturing and enjoys a growing reputation in research and innovation, as well as arts, culture, and cuisine.

Successes such as these should be celebrated. At the same time, the state’s challenges should be addressed in a straightforward manner, with an inclusive, broad-based program for expanding opportunity for all.

For the PDF version of the State’s Image summary brief, click here.

1] http://www.gadsdentimes.com/news/20180729/alabama-ranks-42nd-in-child-well-being

[2] http://www.waaytv.com/content/news/New-study-Alabama–489500431.html

[3] http://www.waff.com/story/38728591/alabama-ranks-no-3-in-speed-related-deaths

[4] https://whnt.com/2018/07/03/alabama-ranks-number-one-for-the-most-fast-food-restaurants-per-capita/

[5] https://www.bizjournals.com/birmingham/news/2018/07/02/alabama-ranks-low-for-best-places-to-start-a.html

[6] https://www.bizjournals.com/birmingham/news/2018/04/26/alabama-ranks-near-bottom-for-childrens-health.html

[7] https://www.al.com/business/index.ssf/2018/03/alabama_ranks_49th_among_state.html


Tax Reform Ranks #10 Among Alabama Voter Priorities

Background

In late 2017, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) surveyed Alabama voters to determine their thoughts about the general direction of the state and the issues that most concern them. PARCA partnered with Samford University to survey policy professionals from across the state, including academics, journalists, business and nonprofit leaders, and lobbyists. Their responses provided a list of 17 critical issues facing Alabama. PARCA partnered with USA Polling at the University of South Alabama to ask registered voters about these 17 issues. The voters’ responses generated the Top Ten list of voter priorities. Details about the survey and its methodology can be found in the full Alabama Priorities report.

Key Findings

Voters broadly agree on the critical issues facing the state.

Voters are not polarized along traditional political, ideological, racial or generational lines. There is a significant gap between the priorities of experts and the priorities of voters.

Policymakers have an opportunity to inform and educate voters on critical and systemic challenges facing the state.

Policymakers have an opportunity to respond to immediate, often highly personal issues that concern voters.

Elected officials and candidates have an opportunity to show leadership and to build broad coalitions to address Alabama’s most pressing challenges.

In the following months, PARCA will produce summary briefs on each of the top ten priorities chosen by Alabama voters, starting with #10. Each brief will answer four critical questions: what is the issue, why it matters, how Alabama compares, and what options are available to Alabama policymakers.

#10: Tax Reform

What is the Issue?

Tax reform is the 10th most important issue for Alabama voters, with 47% of voters indicating they were very concerned about the issue. Tax reform averaged 3.89 on 1 – 5 scale where 1 is “not at all concerned” and 5 is “very concerned.”

That voters are concerned about taxes and tax reform should come as no surprise. That the issue ranks tenth, however, is unexpected. The survey did not ask the direction or nature of tax reform. Certainly, voters and policymakers have differing concerns about Alabama’s tax policy. Taxes could be too high, too low, insufficient, or unfair. Recent research suggests that all of these can be true at the same time.

  • Taxes can be high – Alabama’s sales tax rates are among the highest in the country.
  • Taxes can be low – Alabama collects the lowest amount of property tax revenue per capita in the nation. The per capita collections could be doubled, and they would still be below the national average. Alabama per capita personal income tax collections are also lower than the national average.
  • Taxes can be insufficient – Alabama’s state and local governments collect less in taxes than state and local governments in any other state in the union. That means governments here have less money to spend to provide similar levels of service.
  • Taxes can be unfair – Taxes are not low for everyone. Because of the imbalance in the tax structure, taxes fall more heavily on some groups than others. Alabama’s tax system is the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation,[1] meaning the poor pay a greater share of their income in taxes than the wealthy.

Why Is Tax Reform Important?

Public services in the United States, things like education, roads, and prisons, are generally funded through a mix of taxes and fees assed to all taxpayers. The structure of the federal system and the fifty state systems are complicated and the subject of ongoing debate. Voters and policymakers can and do argue over the details of the tax structure. However, there ought to be broad agreement on two fronts.

First, the tax system should generate revenue sufficient to meet the needs and demands of the public. The Alabama Priorities Project and other PARCA research suggest that many Alabamians do not believe that Alabama spends enough on public services.

Second, public revenues should be reasonably stable from year to year. However, Alabama has relied on one-time sources of revenue or unexpected windfalls to balance its books in each of the past five years. The 2017 Interim Report of the Legislature’s Joint Task Force on Budget Reform:

Year after year, session after session, the Alabama Legislature returns to Montgomery to answer the same, age-old question: “What are we going to do to fill the hole in the General Fund Budget?”  Certainly, there have been times over the years that this was not the case, but for the most part this question has been asked annually for decades.[2]

In attempting to achieve sufficiency and stability, voters and policymakers wrestle with three basic questions: Fairness – does the tax burden fall fairly across all taxpayers?; Adequacy – is tax revenue sufficient to meet the needs of modern life?; and Efficiency – Is the tax relatively easy to collect or does it place too great a burden on government or taxpayers? Jim Williams, retired PARCA Executive Director, notes “Tax problems are present in all states, but in Alabama the failure to create a fair, adequate, and efficient system of taxing and budgeting has led to what is in effect a perpetual budget crisis.”[3]

How Do Alabama Taxes Compare?

In PARCA’s 2017 report, How Alabama Taxes Compare, we reported that Alabama’s state and local governments collect less in taxes than state and local governments in any other state in the union.

In 2015, Alabama state and local governments collected a total of $15 billion in taxes, or $3,144 per resident.  Across the U.S., the median value for state and local taxes per capita was $4,379.

The median state had a per capita tax advantage of $1,235 over Alabama. In other words, if Alabama collected taxes at the per capita rate of the median state, local and state governments here would have an additional $6 billion to spend building and maintaining roads; providing police and fire protection; operating civil and criminal courts; supporting schools and colleges; libraries and parks; and the myriad of other functions government performs.

National comparisons are not always convincing because of regional economic differences, but Alabama stands out even in the Southeast. The figure below presents two sets of calculations. On the left, the Southeastern states are compared and ranked on their total state and local tax collections divided by their populations, producing a total for tax collections per capita. The chart on the right shows the per capita tax advantage of other Southeastern states over Alabama.

Alabama ranks at the bottom. The state closest to Alabama in terms of per capita tax collections is Tennessee, which collects $126 dollars more per resident than Alabama. The top Southeastern state in terms of taxes per capita is Louisiana, which collects $809 more per resident than Alabama.

As a bottom line, Alabama governments have less tax money available to pay for those services.

However, this is not widely understood. PARCA’s 2017 public opinion poll revealed that 34% of voters believe they pay about the same in taxes as those in neighboring states and 29% believe they pay more than residents of other states pay.

What Can We Do?

Voter concern about Alabama’s tax system or doubts about its adequacy and fairness can be troubling to policymakers at every level. Alabama has two sets of options: piecemeal refinements or broad-based reform.

Piecemeal Refinements

State and local governments could adjust sales tax rates. Decreasing rates will further reduce revenue. Increasing rates will make the tax system more regressive and could have diminishing returns. Sales taxes can also be very volatile. Tax collections increase and decrease as retail sales increase and decrease. This makes revenue unstable in volatile times and disastrous in periods of significant economic downturn. Moreover, changing consumer habits affect sales tax revenue. As more and more commerce shifts online, state and local tax collections are impacted.

State and local governments could expand the number of services that are taxed. Alabama applies its tax to almost all sales of goods, but it does not apply the tax to most kinds of business, professional, computer, personal, and repair services. In recent decades a greater share of economic activity has shifted toward consumption of such services. Alabama taxes 22% of services – the average state taxes 55% of services[4].

The state could increase and stabilize revenue through increases to property taxes. Property taxes are hard to change in Alabama. Caps on property taxes have been placed in the Alabama constitution, and any change to property tax rates requires approval not just from the Legislature, but also by a vote of the people.

Broad Based Reform

Since 1991, three major tax reform proposals have been developed (The Alabama Commission on Tax and Fiscal Policy Reform in 1991, The Tax Reform Task Force in 1992, and Governor Riley’s Accountability and Tax Reform Plan in 2003). As Jim Williams notes, “Experience has shown that Alabama voters are unlikely to favor a comprehensive reform package.”[5] However, while none of the major reforms were initially adopted, in the years since, a number of measures tracking or closely related to those systematic reform proposals have been adopted.

Moving Forward

Alabama’s tax system is not balanced. Policymakers can improve voters’ confidence in the tax system and stabilize revenue by seeking a better balance of taxes on income, property, and transactions – what we earn, own, and buy.

View the printable PDF brief here.

[1] Davis, C., Davis, K., Gardner, M., Heimovitz, H., Johnson, S., McIntyre, R. S., . . . Wiehe, M. (2015, January). Who Pays? 5th Edition: Alabama. Retrieved November 30, 2017, from https://itep.org/whopays/alabama/

[2]Alabama Legislature. (2017, May, p. 1). Interim Report from the Joint Task Force on Budget Reform.

[3] Williams, Jim (2017, Nov.) “Insights from Previous Attempts at Tax and Budget Reform in Alabama”

[4] Minnick, R. (2008, July. Revised 2010). Sales Taxation of Services, Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.taxadmin.org/sales-taxation-of-services

[5] Williams, Jim (2017, Nov.) “Insights from Previous Attempts at Tax and Budget Reform in Alabama”


The Priorities of Alabama Voters

In 2018, Alabamians will elect a governor and five other statewide executive branch officers, 140 legislators, and scores of local officials. Those elected will lead Alabama for the next four years. These leaders should be responsive to the concerns of those they represent but also willing to help citizens understand critical, but perhaps less obvious, public policy issues. Such leadership requires understanding what issues most concern voters and what issues voters may not fully appreciate.

In this election year, PARCA surveyed Alabama voters to determine their thoughts about the general direction of the state and the issues that most concern them. We found broad agreement on the critical issues facing the state. Based on voter response, PARCA identified and ranked voters’ top 10 critical issues. Alabama Priorities explores this issue.

The Priorities

Alabama voters are eager to see improvement in K – 12 education, with 70% indicating they are very concerned about the state’s education system. Voters are worried about healthcare , particularly access and cost. With the recent resignations of a Governor, a Speaker of the House, and a state Supreme Court Justice, it should come as no surprise that voters are concerned about corruption and ethics. For many voters, mental health and substance abuse are not just theoretical problems—56% of Alabamians indicate they are very concerned about the issue. The poor and homeless have not been forgotten.

These issues, along with jobs and the economy, crime and public safety, job training and work force development, the state’s image, and tax reform comprise the top 10 list of Alabama’s priorities.

Perhaps this list should not come as a surprise. Previous polling by PARCA and other organizations have found similar results.

What is perhaps more surprising, however, is the extent to which these are shared priorities. We found few significant differences between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites, or other groups. While differences exist, Alabama voters are not polarized.

Alabama Priorities

1. K-12 Education
2. Healthcare
3. Government Corruption and Ethics
4. Mental Health and Substance Abuse
5. Poverty and Homelessness
6. Jobs and the Economy
7. Crime and Public Safety
8. Job Training and Workforce Development
9. Improving the State's Image
10. Tax Reform

Experts and Voters: Differing Priorities

At the same time, while the data suggests broad agreement among voters, there is an area where significant gaps exist. PARCA surveyed business, civic, and nonprofit leaders, journalists, and academics. The differences between the priorities of these experts and voters were noticeable.

Four top 10 issues for voters fell outside the top 10 for experts:

  • Mental health and substance abuse
  • Poverty and homelessness
  • Job training and workforce development
  • Improving the state’s image

Conversely, experts identified four issues that did not register high on voters’ list of concerns:

  • Infrastructure and transportation
  • Prison and sentencing reform
  • Funding state government
  • Civil rights

Possible explanations as to why some issues are more important to voters and others more important to experts are offered in the “Differences Between Experts and Voters” section of the report. three implications are suggested.

Implications

The data suggest four implications.

  1. Voters are not polarized along traditional political, ideological, racial or generational lines.
  2. There is a significant gap between the priorities of experts and the priorities of voters.
  3. Policymakers have a two-fold opportunity to inform and educate voters on critical and systemic challenges facing the state.
  4. Policymakers have an opportunity to respond to immediate, often highly personal issues that concern voters.

This research suggests that elected officials and candidates have an opportunity to show leadership and to build broad coalitions to address Alabama’s most pressing challenges.

Read the full report here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


PARCA Gubernatorial Candidate Forum Brings Leaders Together to Discuss Alabama Priorities

This past Wednesday, May 16th, PARCA held a 2018 Gubernatorial Candidate Forum at Woodrow Hall in Birmingham. The event was hosted by the PARCA Roundtable, PARCA’s young professionals’ group of 28 to 45-year-old civic and business leaders. It was a great opportunity for Democrat and Republican candidates to come together and express ideas in a nonpartisan environment prior to the June 5th primary election.

Participating candidates included Tommy Battle, Sue Bell Cobb, Scott Dawson, James Fields, Bill Hightower and Walt Maddox.

The forum featured one-on-one conversations with each candidate. The six conversations were led by PARCA Roundtable members Victoria Hollis, Peter Jones, and Kendra Key, young professional civic leaders Anthony Hood and Bridgett King, and WBHM News Director Gigi Douban.

A number of the questions specifically addressed the concerns of young professionals. Candidates were also asked about many of the issues most important to voters, as reported in PARCA’s recent Alabama Priorities. At the end of the event, all six candidates came to the stage for questions from the audience of around 135.

Some of the main ideas expressed throughout the evening focused on education, taxes, workforce development, the correctional system and the state’s image.

A collegiality emerged between the candidates throughout the evening, and for a few moments, there were no political parties, only public servants interested in improving the state of Alabama.

 


Alabama Priorities makes its debut

What issues most concern Alabamians? What options do policy makers have to address these issues? These are the questions behind Alabama Priorities – a new initiative of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. We unveiled the initiative at PARCA’s 2018 Annual Meeting last Friday. The presentation can be viewed here.

Step 1: Identify Alabama Issues

In partnership with Samford University, PARCA conducted an open-ended survey of Alabama-based academics, journalists, and civic, business, and nonprofit leaders to create a list of the most serious issues facing Alabama in 2018. More than 150 experts participated, producing a list of 17 issues.

Civil RightsHealthcareK-12 Education
Constitutional ReformHigher EducationMental Health and Substance Abuse
Crime and Public SafetyImproving the State's ImagePoverty and Homelessness
Environmental ProtectionInfrastructure and TransportationPrison and Sentencing Reform
Funding State GovernmentJob Training and Workforce DevelopmentTax Reform
Government Corruption and EthicsJobs and the Economy

Step 2: Rank Alabama Issues

With issues identified, PARCA again collaborated with Samford University to design a random digit dial telephone (50% landline and 50% mobile) survey of registered voters. The poll was conducted by the USA Polling Group at the University of South Alabama in December 2017. The survey collected 468 responses with a margin of error of 4.5%. Responses were weighted for race, gender, education, and age. Below are the top ten issue determined by Alabama voters.


ALABAMA PRIORITIES

Alabama Priorities

1. K-12 Education
2. Healthcare
3. Government Corruption and Ethics
4. Mental Health and Substance Abuse
5. Poverty and Homelessness
6. Jobs and the Economy
7. Crime and Public Safety
8. Job Training and Workforce Development
9. Improving the State's Image
10. Tax Reform

Step 3: Reveal Alabama Priorities
PARCA revealed the 10 priorities, as ranked by Alabama voters, at its 2018 Annual Meeting: The 21st Century Governor, on February 2, 2018. A full report and analysis of the data is forthcoming.

Step 4: Share Alabama Priorities

PARCA will publish a series of policy briefs on each of the top ten priorities in the weeks leading to the general election in November 2018. The briefs will be short, easy-to-understand, nonpartisan descriptions of the priority and will answer four questions.

What is the issue?

Why does it matter?

How does Alabama compare?

What options does Alabama have?


Better Revenue in 2017 Means Easier Budgeting in the New Year

As the Alabama Legislature returns to Montgomery today, it faces an unusual situation: a relatively stable financial picture.

Both the state’s main checking accounts, the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund (ETF), grew at a relatively healthy pace in FY 2017, both up about 4 percent over FY 2016. The traditionally anemic General Fund ended with an $80 million surplus, significantly exceeding estimates. The ETF met estimates and ended with a $1 million surplus.

Since the current year budget (FY 2018) set spending levels at virtually the same level as 2017, budget writers can anticipate additional surplus funds by the end of 2018, creating a favorable climate for writing the 2019 General Fund budget.

On the spending side, Medicaid finished FY 2017 with lower than anticipated costs. Rolling that surplus forward into the FY 2018 budget also should make budgeting for 2019 easier.

And while the implications are yet to be calculated, the tax cut at the federal level will also be good for revenue collection in Alabama. When federal taxes are cut, Alabama tax revenue goes up. That’s because federal income taxes are deductible when calculating Alabama taxes. Thus the money individuals and corporations won’t be sending to Washington will be taxable at the state level, increasing revenue.

While the Legislature won’t be facing a budget crisis this year, there will be struggles. Unless Congress restores federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, lawmakers will have to scramble to find money to pay for the program or curtail insurance coverage for the 77,000 low-income children enrolled in the program.

Also, the perennial problem of funding for prisons will be front and center. The Alabama Department of Corrections has requested a $90 million increase in funding to help it comply with court-ordered improvements to mental health services as well as paying for basic improvements to facilities and increases in operating costs.

A Closer Look at the Final Numbers for 2017

Traditionally, the ETF has grown faster than the General Fund, since it draws on income and sales taxes. Those taxes tend to grow when the economy is healthy. The General Fund relies on a hodgepodge of other taxes, which haven’t tended to grow with the economy. However, in recent years, legislators have shifted some sales and use taxes into the General Fund, allowing that fund to benefit from growth.

Legislators can take cheer in the fact that changes they’ve made in recent years to shift growth taxes into the General Fund helped that fund grow at a rate about even with the education budget.

However, some of the 2017 increases are not likely to be sustained over time. For example, a new tax, the Simplified Sellers Use Tax, a voluntary 8 percent tax on sales paid by Internet retailers without a physical presence in the state, was a new revenue source. Overall, for 2017, the tax, referred to the “Amazon tax,” brought in $25 million to the state in its first year of collection. Of that total, 75 percent, or almost $19 million, went to the General Fund, while the remaining 25 percent, or $6 million, went to the ETF.

That $25 million actually represents half of what the tax brought in. The other half of the tax is distributed to cities and counties, 25 percent to cities and 25 percent to counties, based on population. The tax will likely continue to grow but won’t grow as fast since the increase this year results from the fact that it is a new tax.

The shift of some of those growth taxes away from the ETF has led to slower growth in that fund. In comparison to other states, Alabama has lost ground on per-pupil spending on K-12 education in recent years.

 

Education Fund

Receipts to the ETF in 2017 were up by 4.19 percent compared to 2016. But that increase comes with a caveat. In 2016, $34 million was deducted from overall sales tax receipts and diverted to the Alabama Prepaid College Tuition Program (PACT). In 2017, there will be no diversion and the allocation to PACT will be paid out of the ETF. Accounting for that difference, the actual growth in the revenue flowing to the ETF is more like 3.6 percent.

While the bulk of the increase in the ETF was provided by income and sales tax growth, the addition of the Simplified Sellers Use Tax provided a $6.5 million boost to the ETF. The Mobile Telecom Tax continued a multi-year decline as cell phone companies categorize a greater portion of billing to data services rather than calling. Data plans aren’t subject to the tax.

Revenue SourceFY 2016FY 2017Change% Change
Income Tax$3,722,129,992$3,892,525,501$170,395,5094.58%
Sales Tax$1,744,468,414$1,811,657,811$67,189,3973.85%
Utility Tax$376,625,096$387,966,309$11,341,2133.01%
Simplified Sellers Use Tax$0$6,545,297$6,545,297NA
Use Tax - Remote$4,985,996$6,913,726$1,927,73038.66%
Transfers & Reversions$402,865$404,672$1,8070.45%
Insurance Premium Tax$30,993,346$30,993,296-$500.00%
Privilege License Tax$129,773$112,337-$17,436-13.44%
Hydroelectric KWH Tax$508,723$473,797-$34,926-6.87%
Use Tax$152,082,201$151,598,885-$483,317-0.32%
Beer Tax$22,909,170$22,231,590-$677,580-2.96%
Mobile Telecom Tax$17,700,484$15,904,023-$1,796,461-10.15%
Total$6,072,936,061$6,327,327,218$254,391,1574.19%

Income Tax Detail

Looking more closely at the details of income tax collections, individual income tax gross receipts were up 3.31 percent, or $135 million. Corporate income taxes were up more than 10 percent, or $42 million. When refunds are factored in the net receipts to the ETF from income taxes were up 4.58 percent, or $170 million.

Income Tax DetailFY 2016FY 2017Change% Change
Individual Receipts$4,071,791,983$4,206,538,511$134,746,5283.31%
Corporate Receipts$416,975,401$459,875,408$42,900,00710.29%
Total Receipts$4,488,767,384$4,666,413,918$177,646,5343.96%
Individual Refunds$582,735,210$594,871,933$12,136,7232.08%
Corporate Refunds$84,470,852$78,221,972-$6,248,880-7.40%
Total Refunds$667,206,062$673,093,905$5,887,8430.88%
Revenue Dept Admin$49,046,548$49,046,547-$10.00%
Property Tax Relief$50,384,782$51,705,847$1,321,0652.62%
Political Party Contributions$0$42,118$42,118
Total Deductions$99,431,330$100,794,512$1,363,1821.37%
Net Income Tax to ETF$3,722,129,992$3,892,525,501$170,395,5094.58%

Sales Tax Detail

Gross receipts from the sales tax were up just 1.84 percent, but the net distribution of the sales tax to the ETF was up 3.85 percent over 2016. That higher net distribution is due mainly to two factors. First is the change to how that PACT money is accounted for. The second is a reduction in the amount refunded to the Department of Human Resources for sales taxes paid by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Since less was spent on SNAP this year, the state refunded $5 million less to DHR.

Sales Tax DetailFY 2016FY 2017Change% Change
Gross Receipts$2,230,184,536$2,271,145,936$40,961,4001.84%
Deductions
Revenue Dept Admin$61,445,499$67,731,645$6,286,14610.23%
County Payments$378,000$378,000$00.00%
DHR$65,525,906$60,228,756-$5,297,150-8.08%
PSCA Debt Service$202,832,582$204,735,005$1,902,4230.94%
Auto Sales - SGF$96,478,391$100,823,695$4,345,3044.50%
Conservation$4,996,691$4,995,952-$739-0.01%
GF Excess Discount$11,526,149$12,032,478$506,3294.39%
SGF Parks Bonds$8,206,200$8,206,200$00.00%
AAC School Tax Credits$374,704$356,394-$18,310-4.89%
PACT Sales Tax$33,952,000$0-$33,952,000-100.00%
Total Deductions$485,716,122$459,488,125-$26,227,997-5.40%
Net Sales Tax to ETF$1,744,468,414$1,811,657,811$67,189,3973.85%

General Fund

The biggest contributor to the gains in the General Fund in 2017 was the tax on insurance company licenses. According to budget analysts, this revenue source saw a drop during the Great Recession indicating that in tight financial times, people were forgoing life insurance coverage. In FY 2017, it appears that incomes had recovered enough that more people were restoring coverage. Also, premiums on property insurance have increased due to natural disasters.

The corporation tax, which is levied on out-of-state businesses licensed to do business in Alabama, saw a $19 million increase. That’s thanks not only to an increase in corporate profits but also to the dwindling amount paid out in funds from the tax set aside to pay claims on a business privilege tax that was ruled unconstitutional. With those claims mostly paid out, the full proceeds of the tax are available.

The $7 million increase in proceeds from the unclaimed property fund results from efforts by the Alabama Treasurer’s office to disperse excess money built up in that fund. The growth in the proceeds from this source is unlikely to continue.

The Use Tax, paid by companies buying materials from out-of-state, also increased with the pick up in economic activity. Bank profits appear to be up, producing a boost in the Financial Institutions Excise tax. Taxes on oil and gas production were up as prices rose. Auto sales taxes continued healthy growth, as did the lodging tax, spurred by growth in tourism. As the Federal Reserve increased interest rates, interest income on state deposits also increased.

The biggest loss in revenue came in the miscellaneous category. In 2016 that category was inflated due to settlements from TransOcean and BP related to the BP Oil spill. In 2017, a $50 million payout from BP made up most of the miscellaneous revenue. In 2018, that miscellaneous revenue will drop further because the remaining payouts from BP starting in 2018 are pledged to pay off bonds. Also affecting the bottom line, in 2017, the Legislature chose to decrease the amount transferred into the General Fund through transfers and diversions. During tougher budget years, the Legislature required some agencies to transfer fees and other revenue collected by the agency into the General Fund. In 2017, the Legislature decreased those required transfers by about $13 million dollars.

 FY 2016FY 2017Change% Change
Insurance Company Licenses$293,534,706$319,814,875$26,280,1708.95%
Simplified Sellers Use Tax$841,382$19,635,891$18,794,5092,233.77%
Corporation Tax$56,831,934$75,499,764$18,667,83032.85%
Abandoned Property$45,000,000$52,000,000$7,000,00015.56%
Use Tax$178,951,918$184,790,861$5,838,9433.26%
Use Tax - Remote$14,958,062$20,741,255$5,783,19338.66%
Financial Institution Excise Tax$22,246,274$27,633,823$5,387,54924.22%
Oil and Gas Production$29,481,805$33,943,406$4,461,60115.13%
Sales Tax$97,844,307$102,230,663$4,386,3574.48%
Interest on State Deposits$9,533,292$13,550,218$4,016,92642.14%
Ad Valorem Tax$150,853,517$154,429,888$3,576,3712.37%
Lodgings Tax$46,869,544$49,851,286$2,981,7426.36%
Mortgage Tax$28,292,880$29,886,763$1,593,8835.63%
Motor Vehicle Licenses$44,210,293$45,143,979$933,6862.11%
Freight Line Equipment$4,028,577$4,749,814$721,23717.90%
Lease Tangible Personal Property$76,634,471$77,297,544$663,0730.87%
Court Costs$61,282,678$61,860,771$578,0930.94%
Sales Tax Discount-Parks Bonds$19,732,349$20,238,678$506,3292.57%
Deed Record Tax$9,478,709$9,978,359$499,6505.27%
Tobacco Tax$8,739,383$9,220,768$481,3855.51%
Oil Company Licenses$8,026,984$8,383,195$356,2114.44%
Use Tax Discount$2,940,282$3,216,163$275,8819.38%
Vapor Products$1,147,675$1,361,915$214,23918.67%
Auto Title Tax$23,026,791$23,116,469$89,6780.39%
Tobacco Settlement$2,004,710$2,070,858$66,1483.30%
Securities Commission$9,420,790$9,457,109$36,3190.39%
Public Safety$17,561,609$17,587,450$25,8410.15%
Judicial Administration$102,779$99,655-$3,123-3.04%
Manufactured Homes Registration Fee$553,107$544,840-$8,267-1.49%
Unclassified$10,914$200-$10,714-98.17%
Privilege Licences$5,067,963$4,955,113-$112,850-2.23%
Pari-Mutuel Betting$1,400,662$1,226,025-$174,637-12.47%
Hazardous Waste$208,997$34,219-$174,778-83.63%
ABC Board$100,816,514$100,623,508-$193,006-0.19%
Driver License$17,443,036$16,642,064-$800,972-4.59%
Public Utility$24,169,859$23,198,681-$971,178-4.02%
Cigarette Tax$164,746,858$163,313,105-$1,433,753-0.87%
Mobile Telecommunications Tax$30,900,967$27,308,041-$3,592,926-11.63%
Interest Alabama Trust$103,310,045$98,040,084-$5,269,961-5.10%
Miscellaneous$75,168,635$62,053,603-$13,115,032-17.45%
Total From Tax Sources$1,787,375,258$1,875,730,902$88,355,6444.94%
Transfers and Reversions$57,951,577$44,102,869-$13,848,708-23.90%
Bottom Line Total for General Fund$1,845,326,835$1,919,833,772$74,506,9374.04%

 

 

 

 


How Alabama Taxes Compare

Since late 1988, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama has produced an analysis of Alabama’s tax revenues. Relying on the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual survey of state and local governments across the country, we are able to determine how Alabama taxes and revenue compare to other states. In the analysis, state and local spending are considered together, because states vary greatly in how they divide up the responsibilities for funding government services. This report considers data from 2015, the most recent year available.

Alabama’s state and local governments collect less in taxes than state and local governments in any other state in the union. This has been a basic fact of life in this state since the early the 1990s. It lies at the root of our perpetual struggles to balance state budgets. It underlies the difficulties we face when trying to provide to our citizens the level of government services enjoyed by citizens in other states.

As a bottom line, Alabama governments have less tax money available finance the operation of services like schools, roads, courts, health care, and public safety.

Explore our latest report, How Alabama Taxes Compare, and see how Alabama’s tax system fares against our southeastern neighbors, and what that means for our state. If you want to compare Alabama’s per capita taxes to those in other states, PARCA-designed interactive tables are available online.