DFL lawmakers push Republicans to invest more to address disparities

Minnesota House and Senate DFL legislators pushed House Republicans to pledge a minimum of $50 million to address the state’s racial disparities during the 2016 legislative session at a press conference Tuesday.

Gov. Mark Dayton has dedicated $100 million in his supplemental budget for racial equity efforts and the DFL-controlled Senate has proposed $91 million.

Rep. Rena Moran, a DFLer from St. Paul, said communities of color in the state face a crisis, noting that the median household income for black Minnesotans dropped $31,500 in 2013 to $27,000 in 2014, according to recent Census figures.

“With a $900 million budget surplus we need to address these disparities with urgency now,” Moran said. “Families of color throughout the state have fallen behind and our economy will suffer if we don’t do everything we can to increase opportunity to students, workers, and business owners of color. We have the power to help, and we need to do it now.”

House GOP leaders, meanwhile, released a plan showing $25.7 million for several different programs tackling disparities in the jobs and K-12 bills.

DFL Rep. Peggy Flanagan of St. Louis Park argued that addressing the state’s racial gaps is a top issue for Minnesotans.

“We can no longer say that we don’t know what the problem is,” she said. “We know the problems, and now we need action and we need to invest in these Minnesota families. Even if Republican leaders would support a budget target for racial equity that was only half of Governor Dayton’s, that would be a start, but they are not even doing that.”

A coalition of black leaders unveiled a United Black Legislative Agenda on April 6 that outlined several criminal justice reforms and economic development ideas, including $75 million in startup capital for black businesses.

The 2016 legislative session ends May 23.