Birmingham needs to get the hell out of Alabama

Alabama Theatre
Alabama Theatre

I love living in Birmingham.

I love living in Alabama.

We live in a beautiful state with kind and generous people.

But the State of Alabama is just not competitive with many Southern states.

Our opportunities would be so much greater both personally and professionally if Birmingham were located in a surrounding southern state like Tennessee.

Tennessee offers free college education for students and adults

In 2014 Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation to provide tuition and fees to all students at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institution offering an associate’s degree program.

Then this year Tennessee upped the ante by approving legislation to extend those college scholarships to adults who don’t already have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Every high school graduate in the state of Tennessee soon will have an opportunity to earn an associate degree tuition free.

You may worry that poor Tennesseans will be saddled with exorbitant taxes to pay for these scholarships–but you’d be wrong.

Tennessee has no income tax

Last year our northern neighbor became the second state ever to eliminate its income tax.

Tennessee has long bragged that it is an income tax-free state, but even though it did not assess an income tax on labor, it levied a six percentage tax on investments income.

Last year Tennessee eliminated that tax and now no one in the State of Tennessee pays a state income tax.

Alabama, on the other hand, offers no college scholarships to students or adults, but levies an income tax with a top rate of 5% for individuals earning as little as $3,000 or more a year.

Our children and grandchildren have fewer opportunities

I have a 10 year old grandson who lives in Atlanta. He’s a good student and will likely receive a Georgia Hope Scholarship to fund his college education.

The State of Alabama offers no potential tuition assistance for my two grandchildren living in Birmingham.

But it gets worse.

Alabama taxes groceries

Alabama is one of only fourteen states that charges sales taxes on groceries

Alabama does not fund public transportation

Alabama is one of only four states that do not fund public transportation.

Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, and Utah allocate zero dollars for transit.

Alabama economy stagnant

Alabama was recently ranked as one of the nation’s worst economies.

According to the Birmingham Business Journal, “Alabama’s ranking was affected mostly by its high unemployment rate – tied for third highest in the country – and its low median household income, which ranked fourth lowest among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

All major Alabama cities suffering

You may think that other major Alabama cities are doing better than Birmingham—but we’re all struggling.

A good measure of economic prosperity would be job growth.

Average labor force increase/decrease 2011-2015 (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 21, 2017)

  • Austin +11.3%
  • Raleigh +9.8%
  • Charlotte +7.1%
  • Nashville +5.2%
  • Richmond +3.8%
  • Jacksonville +3.3%
  • Atlanta +2.8%
  • Huntsville -.7%
  • Birmingham -2.2%
  • Montgomery -4%
  • Mobile -5%
  • Alabama -2.6%
  • U.S. +2.3%

I propose our Birmingham region secede from Alabama and become part of Tennessee.

If we could convince the University of Alabama and Nick Saban to come along, we’d have it all.

Editor’s note: Tennessee has a lottery that funds its free tuition program. Alabama is one of only six states that does not have a lottery. Mississippi and Nevada don’t have lotteries–but have legalized gambling. It’s obvious why Utah doesn’t have a lottery. The only other two states without a lottery are Alaska and Hawaii.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com

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6 thoughts on “Birmingham needs to get the hell out of Alabama”

  1. So taking tax dollars from the people of Alabama to provide free college is exactly what you described ” sucking the life out of The people of Alabama”. You also fail to mention Tennessee has a lottery… which funds the free tuition. Tennessee may not have an income tax but the money comes from elsewhere. You can’t pay for things without tax dollars. Lots of opinion in this piece and cherry picked information. Not to mention job growth over the last year and a half has seen an uptick. Nice to leave that out on your numbers that conveniently end in 2015…

    1. Hey John, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I published the job numbers directly from the BBA economic report that I linked in the article. That was the most recent information available. You are absolutely correct about the Tennessee lottery. Alabama is one of only six states that do not have a lottery and that is what funds free tuition in both Tennessee and Georgia. Mississippi and Nevada do not have a lottery–but they do have legalized gambling. Utah is another state without a lottery–for obvious reasons. That leaves Alabama, Hawaii, and Alaska with no lottery. (I’m not for or against a lottery)

  2. I’ve found an easy way to visualize Alabama; use the Atlantic Fall Line as the lay-of-the-land geologic boundary between our very distinct political and cultural halves. The Fall Line enters Alabama from Georgia around Columbus-Opelika, then runs in an arc across Alabama and bends northwestward around Prattville, and then Alabama near Tuscaloosa. ADAH published a beautiful geologic map of Alabama that shows the Fall Line very clearly. The counties “above the Fall Line” and “below the Fall Line” could easily be polled for possible interest in the secession idea. That said, a more plausible geologic-based secession scenario is to simply poll the North Alabama counties along the Tennessee River for interest in joining Tennessee! (It’s not a new idea.)

  3. I know many that have relocated to Tennessee and Georgia just for the free tuition. Having a child in college is taking everything we make even with PACT. I personally have never understood the logic behind no lottery. Our state would flourish if it had one.

  4. Am I the only one who’s noticed how far Alabama has fallen since the Republican wave of 2010 swept in? I’ve seen nothing but corruption and an inability to get anything done in Montgomery.
    Sadly, my husband and I will not be staying in our home state. When our son graduates from high school and college ( eight years), we will be leaving for Florida and our son will be leaving for Atlanta
    I love your ideas, Mr. Sher, but nothing will change in this state until a younger, more progressive government is in power. I don’t see that happening in Alabama.

  5. Forget about joining Tennessee or any other southern state. The Birmingham area should secede from Alabama and be its own state.

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