PARCA Annual Forum 2024: Housing Alabama’s Workforce

Join us for the 2024 PARCA Annual Forum!

We know about Alabama’s workforce challenges. We might not know how housing contributes to that challenge. As housing prices increase, middle-income workers—like firefighters, nurses, police officers, teachers, and others essential to our communities— often struggle to live where they work. The shortage of affordable housing complicates hiring and threatens our economic health and community vitality. PARCA’s 2024 Annual Forum will explore this issue. Engage with experts and leaders in the field as we define workforce housing and explore innovative solutions. We will learn what Alabama is doing and what Alabama could be doing to enable our workforce to live where they work and how that fosters vibrant, inclusive communities.

Speakers to date include:

If you need to purchase your tickets or table reservation by check, please reach out to
Sarah Dayhood at [email protected].


How Alabama Taxes Compare, 2023

Despite the wild gyrations in the economy since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, the latest comparative data from the U.S. Census Bureau finds Alabama in a familiar position: at or near the bottom in state and local government tax collections.

Key Findings

• Alabama is a low-tax state: In FY 2021, adjusted for population, Alabama collected less in state and local taxes than all but one other state. Alaska, thanks to disruptions in the oil market over the period, had the lowest per capita revenues.

• Alabama’s per capita property tax collections are the lowest in the nation. That helps owners of homes, farms, and timberland but creates a revenue deficit, leaving state and local governments with less to spend to provide government services such as education, health, and public safety.

• Alabama’s state and local sales tax rates are among the highest in the U.S., which compensate for low property taxes.

• Alabama’s income tax does not provide the balancing effect that income taxes in other states do. Low-income workers begin paying taxes at a lower threshold than any other state. At the other end of the spectrum, Alabama is the only state that allows a full deduction for federal income taxes paid, a tax break that benefits high-income earners.

Despite unusual circumstances, Alabama’s rankings in per capita state and local tax collections were generally consistent with rankings in prior years.

Motor fuel collections per capita jumped in rank because half of Alabama’s fiscal year was pre-pandemic at a time when the economy was booming and gas prices high. In contrast, most states’ fiscal years began in the months after the pandemic began. Gas prices plummeted, and the total miles traveled on American roads didn’t recover until the calendar year 2022.

Alabama’s sales and gross receipts were also elevated thanks to the state’s high sales tax rate, the elevated volume of pandemic-related buying, and the economic stimulus payments that accelerated spending beginning in April 2020.

Despite all that, Alabama continues to lag behind almost all other states in total per capita collections.

Table 1. Alabama Rank in Per Capita Tax Collections, 2019, 2020, 2021.

In the years since FY 2021, tax revenues have surged based on the infusion of federal stimulus, low unemployment, and high inflation. Legislators have responded by making needed investments, particularly in education, in the form of teacher pay raises and a surge of additional support for literacy and math instruction.

At the same time, the Legislature has also passed tax cuts. In 2022, it increased the standard deduction for low-income Alabamians, allowing more households to shield more of their earned income from the income tax. In 2023, the state sales tax on food items was reduced from 4% to 3%, with a further 1% reduction scheduled for 2024 if revenue targets are met. These targeted tax cuts are a fitting response at a time when inflation is elevated, 3 with state tax collections surging to historic highs and federal COVID-19 relief funds swelling government accounts.

Flush times could allow Alabama to address years of chronic underinvestment compared to other states. Unacceptable conditions, such as understaffed and crumbling prisons, persist. Investments in education that show positive results must be sustained. However, as growth slows and federal aid is exhausted, Alabama governments will likely return to a familiar position of having less money to spend and yet a greater need for government services.

PARCA’s interactive charts allow you to explore a variety of statistics regarding Alabama’s taxes and tax revenue in comparison to other states. For the entire analysis, see our complete report in a printable version. Or read an embedded copy of the report below.


How Alabama Taxes Compare, 2022 Edition

PARCA’s How Alabama Taxes Compare, 2022 Edition, uses data published by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of State and Local Finances to compare tax revenues across the state. This most recent set of revenue and expenditure data cover state and local fiscal years ending between July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, identified as the fiscal year 2020. That means the state of Alabama’s data is from the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2019.

Key Findings

• In 2020, Alabama had the nation’s second-lowest state and local tax collections per capita.

• Alabama has the lowest per capita property tax collections in the nation.

• Alabama has among the highest sales tax rates in the U.S.

• Alabama is now the only state that allows state individual and corporate income taxpayers to fully deduct federal income taxes paid. That provides a tax advantage for high earners.

• Despite a recent change that provides some relief, Alabama begins taxing income at the lowest threshold in the U.S.

Alabama state and local taxes collections are low due to two factors: lower rates and a smaller resource base to tax. Alabama’s Per Capita Gross Domestic Product, the total value of all goods and services produced, ranks in the bottom five of states, meaning we have a lower resource base to tax. However, these other states make a greater tax effort and, thus, generate more money to provide services.

This gap between Alabama and other states will not be so obvious when newly elected lawmakers convene in March to craft budgets for FY 2024. A strong inflationary economy, high employment levels, and a flood of federal relief have supplemented state spending and stimulated record levels of state and local tax collections in the most recent year.

But as proposals are floated to make changes to tax rates, it’s important to understand the tax system in context, including a history of underinvestment compared to other states. Any changes should ensure adequate revenue, promote fairness and opportunity, and increase ease of collection and compliance.

How Alabama’s Taxes Compare, 2022 Edition, explores Alabama’s tax system in more depth and context.

Printable PDF version available here

Below are interactive versions of the charts in the report.


Alabama Public Opinion Survey 2022

With elections for governor and legislature pending in the fall, Alabamians are united in support for public investment in education and healthcare, divided on how to raise money for new investments, and express a preference for local leadership and decision-making. That is according to PARCA’s annual public opinion survey.

The poll of over 400 Alabama residents was conducted by Dr. Randolph Horn, Samford University, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Research and Professor of Political Science. 

Results from this year’s survey are consistent with previous years’ results in some important ways.

  • Alabamians continue to rank education as the most important state government activity.
  • Large majorities of Alabamians say the state spends too little on education and healthcare.
  • Alabamians have an aversion to taxes but say upper-income residents pay too little.
  • A slim majority say budget surpluses should be reinvested in state services, specifically education, rather than used to cut taxes.
  • If budget surpluses are used to cut taxes, the most popular tax cut is the sales tax on groceries.
  • Alabamians are willing to pay more taxes to support education but do not agree on which taxes should be increased.
  • Alabamians are essentially split on tax-funded vouchers to pay for private school tuition. However, a majority believe vouchers, if allowed, should be available to all students.
  • Alabamians continue to believe that they have no say in state government and that government officials in Montgomery do not care about their opinions.

Results of the survey indicate many opportunities for officials to demonstrate responsiveness to public concerns and leadership in crafting public policy solutions.

Download the full report here.


2021 Kids Count Data Book provides roadmap for helping Alabama children

VOICES for Alabama’s Children published the 2021 Alabama Kids Count Data Book this month. For the 6th year in a row, PARCA provided the data and analysis for the project.

Since 1994, the Alabama Kids Count Data Book has documented and tracked the health, education, safety, and economic security of children at the state and county levels.

This annual statistical portrait is meant to provide a roadmap for policymakers who seek to improve the lives of Alabama’s children.
The Data Book can be used to raise the visibility of children’s issues, identify areas of need, identify trends and measure how previous efforts are working, set priorities in child well-being, and inform decision-making at the state and local levels.

Among the findings from this year’s data, VOICES points to the following challenges we must continue to address for Alabama’s children and families:

– Child Care: There are only 1,855 licensed child care providers in Alabama to support the workforce of today and tomorrow.  Lack of quality child care is a leading reason for decreased workforce participation. Further, babies need quality care and education as their parents work and their brains develop in pivotal years.

– Health: During a youth mental health crisis and increased family stress, there is 1 mental health provider available for every 923 Alabamians. The latest research shows that unaddressed childhood trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) lead to lifelong chronic health issues, along with significant barriers to educational achievement and financial security.

– Economic Security: While 16% of Alabamians live in poverty, 23.9% of Alabama children live in poverty (ex. a household of 4 making $24,750 or less). Further, 1 in 5 children in Alabama are food insecure.

– Education: Poverty leads to significant disparities in education. For Alabama 4th graders in poverty, only 37.9% are proficient in reading and 12.1% are proficient in math.

–  Safety and Permanency: In 2021, 3,453 children entered foster care. While cases can have multiple causes of entry, 48% of cases involved parental substance abuse.

See how children in all 67 counties of our state are faring in education, health, economic security, and more.

Access the 2021 Alabama Kids Count Data Book here.


PARCA Believes

PARCA BELIEVES

Alabama can do better.
Sound public policy is essential.
It requires open, transparent and responsive government.
It is based on fact, pursues a clear goal, and is assessed honestly.

Alabama Public Opinion Survey 2021

PARCA’s 2021 public opinion survey finds a growing majority of Alabamians support spending more on education but a lack of consensus on how to pay for the increase.

Among the findings:

Taxes

  • 61% of respondents say upper-income Alabamians pay too little in state taxes. The percent of respondents who believe upper-income earners pay too little increased by 10% from 2020.
     
  • 53% say lower-income earners pay too much, up from 40% in 2016.
     
  • 49% say they pay the right amount of taxes, compared to 57% in 2016.
  • Despite Alabama’s low per capita tax yield, 69% of residents believe they pay the same or more taxes than people like themselves in other states.

Public Education

Alabamians believe education is the most important service state government provides, but its lead over other services is declining.

  • 44% rank education as the most important service, while 31.3% rank healthcare No. 1.
  • 78% believe the state spends too little on education, compared to 74% in 2019 and 68% in 2013. Large majorities in every subpopulation have this belief.
     
  • 69% support increasing taxes to support education, but no single tax increase option garners majority support.
  • This year, respondents were asked what supplemental programs might improve education. No program received a majority response, but the top priorities were expanded tutoring, increased technology funding, and more mental health counseling.

  • When asked what respondents’ top priority for new education funding would be, the highest percentage (41%) said that new revenue should go to increasing salary and benefits for teachers 

  • 59% say local boards of education are best suited to decide how education dollars are spent.

  • Respondents believe that the local board of education are best suited to decide school spending, school policy, and school closings.

Other notable education findings:

  • 77% believe that taxes on Internet sales should be distributed to local schools in the same way as sales tax revenue from brick-and-mortar sales.
     
  • Alabamians are almost evenly split on tax-funded vouchers to pay for private school tuition. However, 61% of Alabamians believe vouchers, if allowed, should be available to all students. 

Trust in State Government

Alabamians’ trust in state government improved slightly compared to 2019 but is still well below rates reported in the early 2000s.

  • 77% support keeping the General Fund and Education Trust Fund separate, down from 80% in 2020 and 82% in 2019, but still well above the 69% reported in 2016.
     
  • 63% believe state government officials do not care about their opinions, down from 66% last year. This compares to a low of 55% in 2008 and a high of 74% in 2010.
     
  • 61% believe they have no say in state government, up from 55% last year, but well above the low of 43% in 2008.

Download the full report here.


Stop the Slide, Start the Climb: Concepts to Enable Alabama Students to Achieve Their Fullest Potential

In March, the nonprofit Business Education Alliance commissioned PARCA to provide research describing the unprecedented challenges and opportunities in education faced by the state in this moment.

For more than a year, schools have coped with the Covid-19 pandemic: reshuffled learning environments, the unknowns of delivering education digitally, and the disruptive and unequal effects that those conditions have had on student learning.

Meanwhile, the schools are working to meet the demands of the Alabama Literacy Act, the 2019 law that requires all children to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade in order to be promoted.

At the same time though, to meet those daunting challenges, the state and federal governments are making an unprecedented amount of money available. For that investment to pay off, the money must be spent with care and forethought if Alabama is to seize this generational opportunity,

Read the full Business Education Alliance report here: Stop the Slide, Start the Climb: Concepts to Enable Alabama Students to Achieve Their Fullest Potential


2020 Kids Count Data Book provides roadmap for helping Alabama children

VOICES for Alabama’s Children recently released its 2020 Alabama Kids Count Data Book last month. This annual statistical portrait is meant to provide a roadmap for policymakers who seek to improve the lives of Alabama’s children. PARCA provides research support for the project.

The Data Book can be used to raise the visibility of children’s issues, identify areas of need, set priorities in child well-being, and inform decision-making at the state and local levels.

See how children in all 67 counties of our state are faring in education, health, economic security, and more.

View the 2020 Alabama Kids Count Data Book here.


Proposed Statewide Amendment Analysis for November 3

When voters go to the polls on November 3, they will not only be voting in the primary race for President, Vice-President, one U.S. Senate seat, seven U.S. House of Representatives, multiple state judicial positions, and various other state and county offices, but voters statewide will also be asked to vote on six new amendments to the Alabama Constitution of 1901. An additional 36 amendments to the state constitution will appear on the ballots of individual counties across the state.

As always, PARCA provides a high-level analysis of each statewide amendment. We study the ballot wording, but also the authorizing legislation behind the language. We do not make recommendations or endorsements, rather we seek to understand the impact of the proposed changes and the rationales for them.

The Alabama Constitution is unusual. It is the longest and most amended constitution in the world. There are currently 948 amendments to the Alabama Constitution. Most state and national constitutions lay out broad principles, set the basic structure of the government, and impose limitations on governmental power. Such broad provisions are included in the Alabama Constitution. But Alabama’s constitution also delves into the minute details of government, requiring constitutional amendments for basic changes that would be made by the Legislature or by local governments in most states. Instead of broad provisions applicable to the whole state, about three-quarters of the amendments to the Alabama Constitution pertain to particular local governments. Amendments establish pay rates of public officials and spell out local property tax rates. An amendment from a few years ago, Amendment 921, granted municipal governments in Baldwin County the power to regulate golf carts on public streets.

Until serious reforms are made, this practice will continue, and the Alabama Constitution will continue to swell.

Read the full report here.