Minnesota leaders highlighted missed opportunities to advance racial justice and equity in the recent legislative session during a Monday press conference.
With both a global pandemic and racial reckoning impacting the state, leaders said state lawmakers missed opportunities to invest in eliminating racial disparities and address areas of common disinvestment. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Voices for Racial Justice, Minnesota Budge Project and Center for Economic Inclusion hosted the event.
With high demand for nonprofit services due to the pandemic, nonprofit operating costs have outpaced their revenue. Nearly one-third of Minnesota’s nonprofits have less than six months before they start exhibiting financial stress, according to a report from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.
In response, the council and its partners proposed a $50-million resiliency and relief fund for nonprofits and culturally specific nonprofits. It would have been funded using one-time funding from the American Rescue Plan, Ileana Mejia, public policy advocate for the council, said during the press conference.
“Revenues are increasingly unpredictable and nonprofits need more sustainable financial support. While this is a missed opportunity for the Legislature, we are now asking the governor for his support and ask that he uses the American Rescue Plan funds, under his discretion, to invest in Minnesota’s nonprofit sector,” Mejia said.
Nan Madden, director of the Minnesota Budget Project, called for a more equitable and inclusive tax system for immigrant, low-income, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. The organization also sought to increase contributions from Minnesotans with “the most resources,” she said.
Although many of these priorities were included in early versions of budgets and bills, these priorities were largely excluded in the final tax agreement, Madden said.
“The pandemic, recession and demands from the public that Minnesota reckons with our long-standing racial disparities demonstrate that Minnesota cannot go back to a status-quo budget that leaves to many of our neighbors behind,” she said.
Tawanna Black, founder and CEO of the Center for Economic Inclusion, pushed for Minnesota to adopt the use of racial equity impact notes. Eight states already use such a tool, allowing lawmakers to examine bills for their ability to widen and narrow racial disparities in education, health, housing, employment, business growth, wealth, criminal justice and more. The bill containing the notes was politicized and did not pass, she said.
“Our state deserves policymakers who are not only conscious of racial disparities, not only aware of the economic opportunity that closing those disparities poses for us, our state deserves legislators who will work hand in hand with the constituents they serve to create policies that are truly designed to narrow and ultimately close racial disparities in all facets of life and vitality by addressing racism itself,” Black said.