The Minnesota Legislature’s last major initiative focused specifically on equity was in 2016, with approval of a package of investments that came to be known as the “Equity Article.” It was a bipartisan response to Gov. Mark Dayton’s urgent plea to address continuing wide disparities in the economic condition of people of color, despite general economic growth and recovery. The Equity Article provided a modest, one-time total of $58.9 million over two years, for strategic investments focused on helping people of color, women, youth and people with disabilities. The grants provided funding for targeted education services, Career Pathways and other training with wrap-around support needed to overcome employment barriers, and for building the capacity of local organizations to better serve communities with disparities. The grants also provided small business development services aimed at increasing business access to capital, job creation and technical assistance. A report released recently by the Department of Employment and Economic Development shows where those equity dollars were invested and how many people were served. The report includes a mostly positive accounting of needles moving in communities and regions with disparity issues, interspersed with brief personal success stories. Growth & Justice testified at the committee hearings for the Equity Article and we emphasized that the effort was long overdue, and that it amounted to baby steps. Over the last three years, we’ve been working toward a long-term, comprehensive, statewide One Minnesota Equity Blueprint, and earlier this month released a comprehensive set of 2019 legislative policy priorities drawn from our open-sourced Thriving by Design process. We believe that these priorities can be the basis for an ongoing “Equity Article’’ for Minnesota, and one that we sustain indefinitely.
As climate action bills take shape in the Legislature and as Gov. Tim Walz prepares a budget that hopefully moves Minnesota more aggressively toward renewable energy, we recommend the 100% Campaign’s enumeration of the five specific policy directions where change has to happen. These are: Efficiency--Strengthen our commitment to making all our buildings more efficient while creating equitable pathways to sustainable, high wage work. Renewables--Accelerate as quickly as possible our transition to equitable renewable energy for everyone across the state. Electrification--We must invest in beneficial electrification, prioritizing our low-income, rural, and most-impacted communities. Decarbonization--We must improve our land, water, & air while decarbonizing by promoting healthy forestry and land use in urban, suburban, & greater Minnesota. Transition & Adaptation-- We must protect our communities that are impacted directly by pollution or the transition away from fossil fuels.
Our perennial allies in pursuit of a more equitable economy, the Minnesota Budget Project, issued a rousing statement recently calling for racial equity to be more of a key focus for 2019. From the statement: “(Primarily white) Minnesotans often brag about Minnesota’s overall economic success, as demonstrated by the state’s low unemployment rate, high median income, and high rates of health coverage. And we’ve done it too. But these statistics often ignore that many Minnesotans of color face systemic barriers that make it harder to get ahead. And a legacy of discriminatory policies in housing, education, and elsewhere mean that people of color in this state face gaps in opportunity.” MBP calls for (as Growth & Justice does in our budget priorities) for providing driver’s licenses without regard to immigration status, boosting the Working Family Tax Credit, reforming the criminal justice system, protecting funding for public health investments and programs, and formalizing practices that require policymakers to consider the impacts on racial equity during the policymaking process.
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., from Parade Magazine’s best quotes for Black History Month.