OPINION EXCHANGE | Find room in the budget deal for communities of color – Star Tribune

Posted: May 25, 2022 at 4:15 am

Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local commentaries online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.

Opinion editor's note: This article submitted on behalf of multiple members of the Minnesota House People of Color & Indigenous Caucus. They are listed below.

Before the start of the 2022 session, the Minnesota economic forecast showed we would have a significant surplus. In February 2022, we learned the surplus was approximately $9.2 billion. Some viewed this a welcome development.

But as legislators of color, we recognize our state has not adequately invested in Minnesotans over the years. It is imperative that an appropriate amount of that surplus is dedicated to the needs of all Minnesotans, and that includes Minnesotans of color.

In Minnesota, 24% of the population are people of color, but our communities see a disproportionately low amount of state investment. Members of the House DFL POCI Caucus are seeking $1 billion in investment to combat the biases and institutionalized racism that prevents communities of color from succeeding in Minnesota.

We work tirelessly for Minnesotans of color. But once the dust settles and negotiations are over, our communities routinely come up short and are told to wait until the next time. It was only two years ago when calls to assist the rebuilding of areas affected by the civil unrest in Minneapolis and St. Paul were met with skepticism and hostility. Many business owners are still waiting for help.

Considering the chronic underfunding in communities of color across the state, a meaningful investment would begin to break the cycle. Without intentional support this underinvestment will destroy the foundations in our communities, leading to additional problems that need even more funding. We know what the solutions are.

With the surplus, we want to see significant investment in housing. This means supporting homeownership with down payment assistance programs, the building and preservation of more homes so there are affordable houses in the marketplace, and continued rental assistance.

Minnesota has one of the largest racial homeownership gaps in the country. It also has renters who find it more and more difficult to keep up with rising costs and stagnant wages.

With the surplus, we want to see significant investment in education. This means fully funding our public schools. This means working to recruit and retain teachers of color, providing full service schools with mental health and counseling services, and English Language Learner programs. It's an investment in workforce and skills development so more Minnesotans of color have the skills to obtain living wage jobs. It's also supporting entrepreneurs of color as they start their own small businesses.

With the surplus, we want to see significant investment in public safety. This means investing in all the amenities that make a community safe. That includes community organizations that can work with stakeholders to prevent violence. We also need to ensure police have the tools and data to perform policing at the highest standards and be held accountable when they do not perform at that standard.

A vision for an equitable Minnesota for all people is attainable. The Select Committee on Racial Justice report from 2020 is also widely available to the Legislature and the public, as a blueprint of the most needed investment in POCI communities in Minnesota. As members of the POCI Caucus, we have the urgency and honor of looking out for the interests of people of color in this state.

The House People of Color & Indigenous (POCI) Caucus includes Reps. Esther Agbaje (chair, Minneapolis), Jamie Becker-Finn (Roseville), Cedrick Frazier (New Hope), Aisha Gomez (Minneapolis), Hodan Hassan (Minneapolis), Kaohly Her (St. Paul), Athena Hollins (chair, St. Paul), Fue Lee (Minneapolis), Carlos Mariani (St. Paul), Rena Moran (St. Paul), Mohamud Noor (Minneapolis), Ruth Richardson (Mendota Heights), Samantha Vang (Brooklyn Center), Jay Xiong (St. Paul), Tou Xiong (Maplewood). All are DFLers.

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OPINION EXCHANGE | Find room in the budget deal for communities of color - Star Tribune

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