tpi

The state of Alabama has long been ridiculed for its national rankings in almost every measure of human development outside of football but it is considered the most affordable place to live in the United States, according to a survey by WalletHub.

WalletHub compared the 50 states based on 51 prime indicators of livability ranging from housing costs and income growth to education rate and quality of hospitals.

Alabama is No. 1 in affordability, perhaps partially due to the fact it is the lowest-taxed state in the U.S., but is ranked 46th overall, 43rd in economy, 48th in education and healthcare, 44th in quality of life and 46th in safety.

Alabama must find a better balance of taxation and services but Alexander City may have already discovered it, according to Alexander City Chamber of Commerce CEO Ed Collari, who was born in upstate New York, graduated high school near Atlanta, graduated from The Ohio State University and lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Phoenix, Arizona, and Birmingham before moving here.

“I’ve lived a lot of different places and I feel confident in saying our city services here — education, police, fire — are at the same level where people are paying a lot more in taxes,” Collari said. “And we don’t have the traffic. The cost of living even from Birmingham to here is significant. The cost of child care from there to here, it felt like getting a big raise.”

Collari said a study by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center in 2015 showed Alabama was the lowest-taxed state in the country with per-capita taxes of $3,144 and he noted the fact Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz have located factories in Alabama shows the state is reaping the benefits of its low cost of living and doing business.

“If you’re looking for a home, that would be very attractive,” he said.

But the low taxes also result in a low quality of essential services.

“By not investing in services as other states do, we see the impact on education and other areas Alabama ranks low in,” Collari said. “In that same (tax) study, Texas was No. 28. If we had a similar tax structure as Texas, just the middle of the road, we’d have $4.8 billion in additional revenue going into the general fund every year. I would love to find the sweet spot where taxes aren’t that high and don’t impede everyday living but not so low where services are not provided at the level you want to see. No matter what taxes you’re paying, you want to make sure they are being used efficiently.”

In the WalletHub survey, Mississippi ranks 50th overall, followed by Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Alabama. In affordability, Mississippi is 10th, Tennessee 15th, Georgia 26th and Florida 33rd.