Insight News

Thursday
Dec 18th

Legislative session was best and worst for racial justice and equity

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ftoney1Organizing Apprentice Project credits more legislators for progressive votes; Pawlenty unallotments mitigate gains

Part three of three in a series from “Conversations with Al McFarlane” Public Policy Broadcasts on KFAI-90.3FM (in Minneapolis) and 106.7FM (in St. Paul) and online at kfai.org

Batala McFarlane: Who are the legislators that we should watch? Who is doing a good job? Who received passing grades? Who isn’t doing a good job?

Jermaine Toney: We actually saw our racial justice honor roll grow. So these are the As and the Bs. In 2008 we named 17 law makers as champions for racial equity. They sponsored and supported pieces of legislation that advance racial equity and opportunity. In 2009 we named 31. So you see the growth there.

Al McFarlane: I want you to name the ones that you gave As to.

Jermaine Toney: Just in general they are from urban areas, from suburban areas, and from rural areas. They are Democrats. They are Republicans. They are women and men. So it’s not just Minneapolis and St Paul; our champions are from across the state. Some highlights:

In the Senate, we named:

Steve Dille, Dassel, Minnesota;

Linda Higgins, Minneapolis;

Gary Kubly, Granite Falls;

Ron Latz, St. Louis Park;

Tony Lourey, Kerrick, Northern Minnesota;

Mee Moua, St. Paul;

Mary Olson, Beltrami County (which is near Bemidji);

Sandra Pappas, St. Paul;

Yvonne Prettner Solon, Duluth; and

Patricia Torres Ray, Minneapolis.

In the House Representatives:

Bobby Joe Champion, Minneapolis

Karen Clark, Minneapolis;

Jim Davnie, Minneapolis;

Mindy Greiling. Roseville;

Jeff Hayden, Minneapolis;

Bill Hilty, Finlayson;

Frank Hornstein, Minneapolis;

Sheldon Johnson, St. Paul;

Margaret Kelliher, Minneapolis;

Diane Loeffler, Minneapolis;

Carlos Mariani, St. Paul;

Erin Murphy, St. Paul;

Kim Norton, Rochester,

Michael Paymar, St Paul;

John Persell, Bemidji,

Nora Slawik, Maplewood;

Linda Slocum, Richfield; and

Paul Thissen, Minneapolis.

So the honor roll is growing and that’s great. We love to see that. But there was also some of the worst stuff that happened last session. Budget decisions, particularly unallotment by the Governor, undermined progress towards equity.

Here are actions that really undermined this process we have been just laying out. One is that the Governor proposed the 27% decrease to the Renters’ Credit, which is about $51 million. Approximately 274,000 Minnesotans, renters, are faced with reductions and over 18,000 renters would actually lose access to the credit. Who are those renters? That’s elderly renters, that’s renters of color, that’s low-income renters. We know that people of color are 14% of the population, but around 26% of the renters in the state of Minnesota. So it disproportionately falls on communities of color.

Equally devastating is the $300 million of state aid to local government that was unallotted. We did an analysis and found that the counties with higher percentages of people of color, unemployment, and poverty are the ones getting the highest reduction in state aid to local government. So what does that mean? That means we will see fewer firefighters. We will see fewer services. We will see fewer snow plows… just fewer services in general.

So our counties that are struggling the most and our residents who are struggling the most have been asked to bear the brunt of the budget cuts. This is what we mean by describing this session as the worst for racial justice and equity.

 

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