As you receive this week’s E-News, the Minnesota Legislature is grinding through an overtime special session, working through the details of an overall budget agreement that will at least avert a state government shutdown. We’ll be analyzing the outcomes with our partners in various coalitions for the next few days and weeks. We know enough to be concerned. Despite a large projected budget surplus, the agreement gives too much in tax breaks to some of our most affluent Minnesotans and insufficiently invests in the human capital, physical infrastructure, and disparity remediation that are vital to more inclusive economic growth. But there were some bright spots. We know we had an impact on legislation that will improve early childhood education options for low-income parents, continue funding for community education partnerships, fix aging water systems in rural Minnesota, and avert deep cuts in mass transit services. We also were encouraged by the expanding base of bipartisan support for the legislative priorities in our Minnesota Rural Equity Project. We will persist in building a “One Minnesota” consensus on policies and investments that create a broader prosperity and advance economic, social, and racial justice in our state.
We were there this week at the inaugural convening of the Opportunity & Inclusive Growth Institute, a new initiative by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank to study and consider remedies to growing economic inequality and racial disparities in the Upper Midwest region and nationally. The first conference brought in economists and researchers of national stature, including some whose work has been featured by Growth & Justice, such as Emmnauel Saez and Robert Putnam. The Star Tribune’s report on the conference noted the inspirational address to the group by Sondra Samuels, chief executive of the Northside Achievement Zone, which is part of a statewide coalition that Growth & Justice helped create. Videos and brief summaries of presentations from the conference are on the institute’s website.
Growth & Justice has joined dozens of organizations nationally supporting the “Advancing Career Pathways Innovation Act,” an effort led by U.S. Sen. Al Franken. The legislation would fund some of the most promising job-training partnerships that close the skills gap, which plagues both underemployed young adults and employers facing a shortage of skilled workers. This statement by Franken captures the essence of the Career Pathway model: "Countries like Germany and Switzerland have an education and workforce training system that understands the value of on-the-job learning. Businesses, workers, and our economy will all benefit if more people are able to learn the skills they need to fill high-tech in demand jobs. This challenge is one that is best tackled when educators and employers come together to create partnerships and programs that offer real solutions." Our story-telling about state-of-the-art Career Pathways in Minnesota is helping gain traction and funding support from public and non-profit sources.
The Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute are Washington think tanks that occupy center-left and center-right ideological territory, respectively. Recently they collaborated on a report entitled “Opportunity, Responsibility, and Security: A Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty and Restoring the American Dream.” The lead authors, Ron Haskins and Robert Doar, will share with us why and how the collaboration came about, the specifics of a possible “grand bargain” on social welfare policy, and the prospects for progress in a divided nation. Here’s your link to register for this free event. It’s our 9th annual conversation commemorating the spirit of John Brandl, a former legislator and U of M professor known for seeking bipartisan common ground and consensus in public policy. Growth & Justice is a founding co-sponsor of the event, along with an ecumenical group of policy organizations.
“One of the big surprises for me coming to this region was the extent of the disparities...Minnesota has one of the greatest disparities in the nation. Why do these disparities exist? What are the structural factors? We probably can’t solve them with monetary policy, but we can target our huge research capability.”—Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari, opening the first conference of the Opportunity & Inclusive Growth Institute.