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Alabama is last in state and local taxes per capita

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Alabama reportedly ranks last in the amount of sales and local taxes collected per person, a position it is accustomed to.

A review of U.S. Census Bureau reports found that Alabama's state, county and city governments collected a total of $2,569 per person in taxes in fiscal 2005, just below Mississippi, which collected $2,575 to rank 49th.

The national median — 25 states collected more, 25 collected less — was $3,387 for that fiscal year, the newspaper reported Monday.

Alabama has ranked 50th in state and local taxes collected per person many times since 1993, according to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, a nonpartisan think tank based at Samford University.

"It just says that our governments are trying to do the same things everybody else is trying to do, but they're trying to do it with a whole lot less money," said Jim Williams, PARCA's executive director.

Among neighboring states, Florida collected $3,369 in state and local taxes per person to rank 26th, Georgia collected $3,010 to rank 38th, and Tennessee collected $2,685 to rank 48th, just above Mississippi.

Alabama's state and local governments collected $11.69 billion in taxes in fiscal 2005, a figure that would have been about $2 billion higher if Alabama had collected the same amount in state and local taxes per person as Georgia, the News said.

Measured as a share of residents' income, state and local tax collections per person equaled 12.14 percent of the per capita income in Alabama, good for 49th place among all states.

The lowest percentage was 11.72 percent, for New Hampshire. The national median was 14.40 percent.

Views differ on whether having the lowest taxes in the nation is good or bad.

Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for Gov. Bob Riley, noted that Riley in his State of the State speech in March boasted that Alabama was "the lowest-taxed state in the nation."

"Ladies and gentlemen, that is not a criticism," Riley said then. "That is a point of pride."

David Bronner, chief executive of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, said progress can be stymied by low tax revenues.

"It's very difficult to beat other states in their quality of life, their educational levels and their standard of living if you're not willing to reinvest in your state," he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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