Racial Justice in the 2013 Legislative Session

Report CoverOn the heels of the 2012 election, including the defeat of two amendments to the Minnesota Constitution and a new majority in both chambers of the Legislature, organizers and policy advocates were ready for a busy legislative session in 2013. Communities of color and organizations working for racial justice were part of shifting the power structure that created this opportunity and were ready to move forward with significant policy changes. Racial justice leaders had faced several years of opposition – OAP’s Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity had given the Legislature an F in 2012 and a D in 2011.

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Drivers Licenses for All: Build a Road to Justice for All Minnesotans

941751_633781403316195_1028139723_nA hunger strike is underway at the Minnesota Capitol to push Speaker Thissen and the Minnesota House to act on the Drivers Licenses for All bill. MN-Mesa Latina is asking for help in sharing this message.

Join with MN-Mesa Latina to ask Speaker of the House Paul Thissen to move the Driver’s License for All bill through the House! Thanks to all of your action last week, Senate Majority Leader Thomas Bakk has come out in favor of the bill, and we expect movement on the bill in the Senate.  We need you, our community members and our allies, to take action with MN-Mesa Latina to keep momentum on this bill in the House!

Please raise your voice for a safe and inclusive Minnesota in ONE easy step:

Call or email Speaker of the House Paul Thissen to request that he meets with MN-Mesa Latina and that he schedules a hearing for the bill in the House Ways and Means Committee. Contact information and example language is below.

Example language:

Honorable Representative Thissen:

Hello, my name is _____________. I am contacting you today to request two actions to support House File 348, the Driver’s License for All bill.
First: Please meet with representatives of MN-Mesa Latina and their allies, to discuss directly why this bill is critical for public safety, prosperity, and fairness to all hardworking Minnesotans.
Second: Please schedule a hearing for this critical bill in the House Ways and Means committee, and support its passage to the House floor. Our state has come a long way in building the public safety and inclusion that reflect Minnesotans’ values, and the Driver’s License for All bill is a vital next step. Please be a hero to hardworking Minnesota families of every immigration status and schedule this hearing for House File 348, the Driver’s License for All bill. Thank you for supporting the ability of all Minnesotans to work, attend school, and live their lives.

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Tax Justice Can Lead to Racial and Economic Justice

Discussions about tax policy and reform are heating up at the Minnesota Capitol, and it is important for all of us to remember that tax policy has a lot to do with racial and economic justice. As income inequality continues to grow in Minnesota, our system of taxation can either contribute to or reduce that inequality. We know that raising revenue through taxes is necessary to fund investments that help build more equitable communities – if policy leaders pay attention to equity in budget priorities. The same holds true for tax policy. Raising revenue equitably can help reduce disparities and form the foundation for other equitable practices.

By connecting the dots between some key facts, it is clear that fair tax policy is also a matter of racial justice.

1. Poverty and race intersect.

About 12% of Minnesotans live in poverty. Communities of color experience poverty at higher rates than white Minnesotans, with poverty at

41% for American Indians,

17% for Asian Americans,

37% for African Americans,

25% for Latinos,

and 9% for whites.

Susan Brower, State Demographer

2. Income growth is concentrated among the wealthiest Minnesotans.

“Household income has declined over the past decade. Poverty has increased. The wage distribution has widened. Low-income workers’ wages have changed little in past decades; the highest-income wages have increased.”

Susan Brower, State Demographer

Income inequality has grown in Minnesota, making the lack of equity in our tax code even worse. High-income Minnesotans pay a significant amount of all taxes paid in the state, but they pay below their proportionate share. For example, the 1% of Minnesotans with the highest incomes had 16% of all income in the state, but only paid 13.4% of all state and local taxes.

3. Minnesota’s tax system asks low- and middle-income Minnesotans to pay more than their fair share.

All Minnesotans support public services through the taxes they pay. However, looking at all state and local taxes, Minnesota’s tax system is regressive, meaning that low- and middle-income Minnesotans pay a higher share of their incomes in taxes than high-income Minnesotans. And Minnesota’s tax system has become more regressive over time, reflecting rising income inequality but also tax and budget choices, such as increased reliance on local property taxes.

“Minnesota’s estate tax and individual income tax are the state’s only progressive taxes – meaning that the higher one’s income, the larger the share of income paid for the tax. All other taxes that Minnesotans pay are regressive, where low- and middle-income households pay a higher share of their income in those taxes.”

Minnesota Budget Project

Considering state and local taxes, the Minnesotans with the lowest incomes contribute the highest share of their incomes to taxes. Households with incomes over $446,961 a year pay 9.6% of their incomes in total state and local taxes, whereas middle-income households pay 12.1%, and low-income households pay 14%.

Tax Policies Can Hurt or Help

Given the facts described above, it’s clear that economic and racial disparities are reflected in the tax code. Of course our system of taxation cannot on its own eliminate disparities by race and income. But attention to these disparities in our policy choices can ensure that our taxes do not exacerbate economic and racial disparities.

Key proposals to further tax fairness and thus racial justice include: 

Raise the income tax rate on highest-income households.

Doing so will make the system more fair, while also bringing in much needed revenue for investments in quality schools, affordable college and strong communities. Tax fairness has declined in Minnesota since 1990, as income inequality has grown.

Improve the Renters’ Credit to offset the regressive impact of property taxes.

People of color in Minnesota are more likely than white Minnesotans to rent their homes. While 81.4% of white Minnesotans own their homes, only 50.2% of Hispanic Minnesotans and 24.8% of Black Minnesotans are homeowners. Minnesotans pay property taxes whether they own or rent their homes, with renters contributing through their monthly rent payments. The Renters’ Credit helps ensure that low- and moderate-income renters don’t pay too much of their incomes in property taxes.

Update the Working Family Credit.

Last year the federal Earned Income Tax Credit lifted 6.6 million people, including 3.3 million children, out of poverty. Policymakers should update the Minnesota Working Family Credit – our state’s version of the federal EITC – to reflect recent federal changes benefitting married couples as another important step to make our tax system less regressive.

“When low-income families receive their refund check, they purchase groceries, child care, school supplies, and more, increasing demand for the goods and services of local businesses, which ultimately benefits the economy as a whole.” Center for American Progress

Download the PDF of this document and share with your network and legislators:

Tax Justice Can Lead to Racial and Economic Justice

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