2009 Minnesota Legislature was “at its best, and at its worst”
St. Paul, Minn. (Feb. 18, 2010) – At the State Capitol Building Thursday, State Senator Mee Moua, State Representative Jeff Hayden and leaders of communities of color discussed the Fourth Minnesota Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity.The Organizing Apprenticeship Project report (www.oaproject.org) evaluates how well Governor Tim Pawlenty and the State Legislature have advanced racial equity through laws passed in 2009. The report blasts the Governor’s unallotment decisions as “crippling” and has undermined progress on racial equity for communities of color and low-income families.
The Organizing Apprenticeship Project, a Minnesota non-profit that advocates for racial equity, released today its 2009 Minnesota Report Card on Racial Equity. The Report Card evaluated how well Governor Pawlenty and the Legislature advanced racial equity in the laws they passed in 2009. The Report Card also described the upcoming damage to communities of color and low income families from Governor Pawlenty’s unallotment decisions.
“Last session, Minnesota lawmakers made progress toward racial justice that included promoting hiring equity for green jobs and advancing parity in the criminal justice system,” said Jermaine Toney, OAP Project. “Unfortunately, Governor Tim Pawlenty’s unilateral cuts to programs providing critical support for communities of color and low-income families undermined many of the good legislative accomplishments in the 2009 session.”
Toney, the lead policy OAP analyst and report author, said the 2009 report differs from the three previous ones in that it has expanded to better reflect priority concerns of the session.
“In many ways, budget decisions trumped policy in the 2009 session – decisions that have a profound impact on Minnesota’s quality-of-life and on Minnesota’s stark racial disparities for years to come,” said Toney. “So this year’s report card still looks at policies but also adds a hard look at the real consequences of budget cuts and unallotment on Minnesotans and Minnesotans of color.”
Toney called the 2009 Legislature “the best of sessions and the worst of sessions.”
The best rating came with the Legislature and the Governor showing a huge improvement in public policy. He gave them a “B” for passing and signing 10 out of 12 bills studied.
“This is the first time the legislature and governor even passed,” he added. “In 2008 both shared an ‘F’.”
Toney said that some examples of racially equitable policies included HF 181, a bill to expand health care coverage to 22,000 poor kids, disproportionately children of color who are more likely to deal with poverty and unemployment.
Sen. Moua, a multi year champion for racial equity, highlighted her talk on the progress on criminal justice policies.
Minnesota ranks among the eight worst states on juvenile detention, with youth of color being sent into juvenile custody far more often than white youth, even when the crimes are same. HF 702 directed the state to look at decisions that lead to this result.
The report gave more individual lawmakers “A’s” for leading and supporting racial equity legislation. In 2009, there were 31 lawmakers with an “A.” Another 46 lawmakers earned a “B”.
State Representative Jeff Hayden. Jeff was named a Champion for Racial Equity in this year’s report card and highlighted some solutions that address how the recession has disproportionately impacted communities and low income Minnesotans.
The praises ended there with talk shifting to the Legislature and the Governor failing to reach an agreement for erasing a multibillion dollar deficit, and then Pawlenty stepped out of negotiating process and balanced the budget by using a little-known device called unallotment.
He said the unallotment allowed the governor to make a difficult time worse for Minnesotans of color and poor Minnesotans.
Toney said the governor proposed to dismantle GAMC, impacting more than 70,000 Minnesota adults who earn less than $7,800 with the loss affordable health care. Approximately 39 percent of GAMC enrollees are in the Black and American Indian population; when together they represent only 5 percent of the state population.
The governor also proposed a 27 percent cut ($51M) reduction to the Renters’ Credit. Approximately 274,000 renters will face a reduction and 18,200 renters will actually lose their credit. That includes elderly renters, low-income renters and renters of color.
Toney added that $300 million in state aid to local government aid was unalloted. The OAP analysis found that counties with more than average amount of people of color, poverty and unemployment would shoulder a greater burden of this unallotment.
Many communities cannot make their own cuts to parks, libraries and other services to maintain firefighters, police and roads to make up the loss of LGA.
“Simply put, the governor’s inequitable cuts to health care, renters, counties have forced Minnesota’s residents and government bodies who can least afford them to bear the brunt of the state’s budget cuts,” he said.
Toney pointed to studies from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the businesses of the Itasca Project, and the Brookings Institution that show the failure to address racial and economic disparities will undermine long-term economic growth and prosperity.
“As lawmakers and the governor face another round of multibillion dollar deficits, our elected officials have to work together and reduce racial and economic disparities as a core element in budget decisions – to prevent long term harm to all Minnesotans,” he said.
Dr. Monica Hurtado, a foreign trained physician from Colombia, said that in the past 8 years she has been working as the health educator for Latino Families in a program based at Hennepin Care East Lake, an outreach clinics of HCMC that is funded by the Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative.
Dr. Hurtado spoke of examples, recalling a 60 year Mexican immigrant in the U.S. for 35 years, and for the past 12 years in Minnesota had worked at a golf course.
“He never has had medical insurance and that’s why during 20 years he never went to see a Doctor, concerned of medical bills,” said Hurtado. “Until last June when he felt really sick ‘I was having a strong cold’ he said, and he ended going to HCMC emergency room. He was admitted with diagnoses of pneumonia and uncontrolled diabetes. He was unaware of his diabetes until this admission.”
Although GAMC covered the thousands of dollars in medical bill while in the hospital, she said that his coverage ended in July, and has since been seeing a financial counselor weekly without success in finding other insurance.
With his vision severely damaged from non controlled diabetes, the patient is waiting for health coverage for laser treatments. He cannot work or continue to live independently much longer until he receives the treatment.
Minnesota Care will step in this March, however, there will be monthly premiums and copayments and with not having worked for 7 months, he also needs to pay rent, food and other bills.
Hurtado said this story is one hundreds from people that come to their clinic. Since this past November she said the elimination of GAMC would reduce funding to HCMC by approximately $40 million in 2010 and $50 million in 2011.
“We know that over 120 years, HCMC has been treating more disadvantaged, vulnerable and uninsured patients than any other hospital in Minnesota,” she said. “And this year’s unallotment to GAMC will have devastating impacts on people we serve.
In 2009, she said that people of color, including Latino and American Indian patients represented 69 percent of clinic visits covered by GAMC at Hennepin County Medical Center, compared to just 30 percent for white patients. She said the cuts have increased racial and economic disparities in health care and undermines public health.
“Without GAMC, scores of low-income Minnesotans, particularly people of color will likely be turned away from health care clinics for being sick and poor,” she added.
Others present included Jennifer Godinez, associate director, Minnesota Minority Education Partnership; Dennis Presley Jr, GVGP/Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, Hashi Shafi, Executive Director of Somali Action Alliance.
Key findings of the 2009 Minnesota Legislative Report Card on Race Equity:
• More individual legislators earned top grades through leading and supporting racial equity legislation than in the past. The honor roll included 77 lawmakers, including 31 lawmakers that earned an A. Lawmakers on the honor roll were from both political parties as well as from urban, suburban and rural districts throughout the state.
• Legislature and Governor showed a huge improvement on passing racial equity bills. The Legislature and Governor shared a “B” for signing and passing laws that included promoting hiring in green jobs, banning the box on statewide public employment, covering more kids with health insurance, and strengthening efforts revitalize the Dakota and Ojibwe languages.
• Budget decisions undermined racial equity progress. Stalled budget negotiations led to Governor Pawlenty using his unallotment authority to balance the budget. The Governor’s cuts hit communities of color and low-income families hardest as it deepened their economic hardship. When the Governor cut aid to local governments, eliminated the GAMC program and cut $51 million dollars from the Minnesota’s renters’ credit program, he damaged many safety net programs that were created to reduce racial and economic disparities throughout the state.
• As lawmakers and the Governor still face a budget deficit of historic proportions, Toney recommended that “elected leaders integrate racial and economic equity as core elements in budget decisions, to prevent long term damage to all Minnesotans.”
The Organizing Apprenticeship Project, a nonprofit organization working to reduce racial disparities in education, income, wealth, employment, health and criminal justice, trains community organizers in grass roots action around racial equity issues and through public policy initiatives.
2009 Racial Justice Leadership Honor Roll:
Lawmakers that earned “As”:
Steve Dille (R-Dassel)
Linda Higgins (DFL-Minneapolis)
Gary Kubly (DFL-Granite Falls)
Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park)
Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick)
Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul)
Mary Olson (DFL-Beltrami County)
Sandra Pappas (DFL-St. Paul)
Yvonne Prettner-Solon (DFL-Duluth)
Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis)
House of Representatives
Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis)
Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis)
Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis)
Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville)
Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis)
Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson)
Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis)
Sheldon Johnson (DFL-St. Paul)
Margaret Kelliher (DFL-Minneapolis)
Diane Loeffler (DFL-Minneapolis)
Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul)
Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul)
Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester)
Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul)
John Persell (DFL-Bemidji)
Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth)
Maria Ruud (DFL-Minnetonka)
Brita Sailer (DFL-Park Rapids)
Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood)
Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield)
Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis).
Lawmakers that earned “Bs.”
Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul)
Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis)
Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud)
Kevin Dahle (DFL-Northfield)
Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis)
John Doll (DFL-Burnsville)
Sharon Erickson Ropes (DFL-Winona)
Dennis Frederickson (R-New Ulm)
Ann Lynch (DFL-Rochester)
LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Roseville)
Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing)
Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope)
Claire Robling (R-Jordan)
Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont)
Sandy Rummel (DFL-White Bear Lake)
Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato),
Dave Olin (DFL-Thief River Falls)
Charles Wiger (DFL-North St. Paul)
House of Representatives:
David Bly (DFL-Northfield)
Robin Brown (DFL-Albert Lea)
Julie Bunn (DFL-Lake Elmo)
Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal)
Denise Dittrich (DFL-Champlin)
Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley)
Andrew Falk (DFL-Appleton)
Paul Gardner (DFL-Shoreview)
Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul)
Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center)
Gail Jackson (DFL-Princeton)
Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis)
Jeremy Kalin (DFL-Lindstrom)
Lyle Koenen (DFL-Clara City)
John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul)
Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul)
Carol McFarlane (R-White Bear Lake)
Denny McNamara (R-Hastings)
Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter)
Joe Mullery (DFL-Minneapolis)
Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown)
Jerry Newton (DFL-Andover)
Phil Sterner (DFL-Rosemount)
Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City)
Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis)
John Ward (DFL-Brainerd)