The Fabric of Minnesota: An Opportunity Agenda for a Better Minnesota

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March 09, 2017  | In The News                                                   Bookmark and Share

Graphic: Fabric of Minnesota

The Fabric of Minnesota: An Opportunity Agenda for a Better Minnesota

 During the 2016 Legislative Session, Governor Dayton secured an initial round of funding to begin addressing racial and economic disparities in communities across Minnesota. This session, the Governor is proposing numerous investments throughout his proposed budget to close educational opportunity and achievement gaps, address health disparities in communities of color, create economic opportunity and equitable outcomes for all Minnesotans, and strengthen communities in every corner of Minnesota. READ MORE

Minnesota Must Do Better for ALL Minnesotans 

When Governor Dayton took office in January 2011, over 202,000 Minnesotans were out of work, and unemployment was at 6.9 percent. Since then, Minnesota’s employers have added over 252,000 jobs, and the statewide unemployment rate has been at or below 4 percent for over 30 months. 

But not all Minnesotans are sharing in Minnesota’s economic recovery. Persistent educational achievement gaps, vast differences in income, and disparities in health and employment are still leaving too many Minnesotans of color behind. 

Here is what you need to know:

23% –The state’s poverty rate for Minnesotans of color and indigenous people (23%) is nearly twice the poverty rate for all Minnesotans (10%).

39% – More than one-third of all African American kids in Minnesota are living in poverty (39%). 

2x –The unemployment rate for African Americans in Minnesota (8.8%) is more than twice that of all Minnesotans (4%). The unemployment rate for Latino Minnesotans is over 5.3%.

70% –Median income for Somali households in Minnesota ($18,400) is 70% less than the median household income of all Minnesotans ($60,900). That means Somali households earn about $42,500 less in annual wages than the state’s median household income.

54% –Median income for Ojibwe households in Minnesota ($28,100) is 54% less than the median income of all Minnesotans ($60,900). That means Ojibwe households earn around $32,800 less annually than the state’s median household income. 

53% – Median income for African American households in Minnesota ($28,800) is 53% less than the median income of all Minnesotans ($60,900). That means African American households earn about $32,100 less annually than the state’s median household income. 

32% –Median income for Latino households in Minnesota ($41,700) is 32% less than the median household income of all Minnesotans ($60,900). That means Latino households earn about $19,200 less in annual wages than the state’s median household income.

13% – Median income for Hmong households in Minnesota ($53,000) is 13% less than the median income of all Minnesotans ($60,900). That means Hmong households earn about $7,900 less in annual wages than the states’ median household income.

82¢ –Women in Minnesota earn about 82 cents for every $1 a man earns. That is about $9,500 less in annual wages.

69% –In 2016, 87 percent of white students in Minnesota graduated from high school. By contrast, only 69 percent of students of color graduated from high school in 2016. Minnesota has made important progress in closing those achievement gaps since 2006, when only 49 percent of students of color were graduating from high school. But there is still much more work to do to ensure all students receive excellent and equitable educations.

For more information about economic disparities in Minnesota, visit the State Demographer’s website, the Legislative Office on the Economic Status of Women website, and the Minnesota Department of Education website.

Making Progress

During the 2016 Legislative Session, Governor Dayton secured $35 million to begin addressing racial economic disparities in Minnesota. Additionally, the Dayton Administration is taking steps create better economic opportunity for all Minnesotans. Here is a brief look at what Governor Dayton has done thus far.

Governor’s Diversity & Inclusion Council

In 2015, Governor Dayton signed an executive order establishing the Diversity and Inclusion Council. The Council, chaired by the Governor, is working to: 

1.   Improve the recruitment and retention of state employees from diverse backgrounds;

2.   Improve contracting processes and increase contract rewards for businesses owned by Minnesotans from diverse backgrounds; and

3.   Promote civic engagement from all communities in the State of Minnesota.

Diverse Hiring in State Government

In his 2016 State of the State Address, Governor Dayton announced that he plans to increase the percentage of people of color working in state government to 20 percent by the time he leaves office.

When the Governor took office in 2011, only 8 percent of state employees were people of color. Today, because of the efforts of the Dayton Administration, 11 percent of the state’s employees are now people of color. The Dayton Administration is committed to doing the work necessary to achieve the 20 percent goal 

Disability Hiring in State Government

In 2016, Governor Dayton announced his goal to increase the percentage of state employees with disabilities to 7 percent by August 2018.

As of 2013, only 3.2 percent of state employees were persons with disabilities. Now, 6.2 percent of Minnesota state employees are persons with disabilities – with more work to do to reach the Governor’s 7 percent goal.

Comprehensive Audit of State Government

Last year, Governor Dayton announced that Minnesota state government would undergo a comprehensive audit to review its compliance with procurement, human rights, and affirmative action laws. The audit was completed in February 2017 and the State is moving forward to address recommendations in the audit and integrate the findings into the work of the State to benefit all Minnesotans.

Diversity in Our Courtrooms

Since 2011, Governor Dayton has appointed 127 new judges to fill judicial vacancies in Minnesota. In making these appointments, the Governor has been mindful of improving diversity on the bench – helping ensure that the state’s judges better-reflect the cultural, racial, and gender diversity of the Minnesotans they serve.

So far, the Governor has increased the racial diversity of Minnesota’s judges by 84 percent. He has appointed 80 percent of all of the Hispanic judges currently serving in Minnesota, and increased the proportion of female judges in Minnesota by 33 percent. 

Additionally, the Governor appointed the first Hispanic appellate court judge in Minnesota history, appointed the first African American female justice to the Minnesota Supreme Court, appointed the first American Indian to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and appointed the first openly gay justice to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Increasing Contracts with Targeted Group Businesses

Governor Dayton has directed all state agencies to facilitate vendor access to opportunities for minority, women, disabled and veteran-owned businesses, and then take action to increase state contracts with those businesses. 

Young Women’s Initiative

In 2016, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith announced the Young Women’s Initiative to improve opportunity for young women across Minnesota. The Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota is bringing together young women, community leaders, nonprofits, businesses, and government to improve equity in outcomes for young women who experience the greatest disparities. In particular, the initiative includes:

1. Eight Community-Specific Working Groups working together to expand opportunities for women in Minnesota;

2. A Young Women’s Initiative Council of 70 leaders from elected office, the business community, philanthropy, and the community to mobilize resources; and

3. A Young Women’s Cabinet of 25 young women to ensure the Working Groups and Council stay grounded in the lived experiences of young women. 

Women’s Economic Security Act

In 2014, Governor Dayton signed into law the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) – nation-leading legislation designed to break down barriers to economic progress for women. WESA strengthens workplace protections and flexibility for pregnant women and nursing mothers, expands employment opportunities for women in high-wage, high-demand occupations, and reduces the gender pay gap through better enforcement of equal pay laws.

LGBTQ Rights

In 2013, Governor Dayton signed into law the Freedom to Marry bill, making it legal for all Minnesotans to marry the person they love.

In 2014, Governor Dayton signed into law the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, strengthening protections against the threat of bullying in schools. The law provides local school districts the guidance, support, and flexibility to adopt clear and enforceable school policies to help protect all children from bullying, and to reinforce the principles of tolerance and respect in our schools. 

This year, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith voiced their concern that bullying against LGBTQ students is still a serious problem, and urged all school districts to continue protections for transgender, gay, and lesbian students.

Council on Law Enforcement and Community Relations

In 2016, Governor Dayton signed an executive order establishing the Governor’s Council on Law Enforcement and Community Relations. The Council is charged with developing recommendations to build trust and cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, thereby creating a safer and more harmonious Minnesota.

Already, the Council is finding new solutions and common ground to provide additional training to law enforcement officers, and strengthen police relationships with the communities they serve.

Keeping the Momentum, Proposing Solutions

Under Governor Dayton’s leadership, Minnesota is doing much better than it was before – with 252,100 new jobs and a $1.6 billion budget surplus. But too many Minnesotans are still being left behind, especially in communities of color that face health disparities, experience opportunity gaps in education, and have less access to jobs with family-sustaining wages. Governor Dayton’s Opportunity Agenda for a Better Minnesota includes strategic investments to prepare workers for good jobs, alleviate disparities in health and housing, and expand economic opportunities for Minnesotans of color. Summaries of these proposed investments are included below.

Expanding Economic Opportunity Statewide

       Training for High Wage, High Demand Jobs – The Minnesota PIPELINE project connects Minnesotans with training for jobs in high demand industries including advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services, and information technology. More than 300 Minnesotans already have completed a PIPELINE training program, allowing them to access good jobs without incurring the significant student debt associated with other forms of higher education. Governor Dayton has proposed a $600,000 investment to expand the PIPELINE project and allow more Minnesotans to participate.

       Expanding Access to Apprenticeships for Great Jobs – Minnesota’s Apprenticeship programs combine job-related technical instruction with structured on-the-job learning experience to prepare Minnesotans for high-demand jobs and careers. Minnesota’s LEAP initiative delivers grants to workforce training organizations that work with women, people of color, and members of other communities not traditionally involved in skilled trades. The Opportunity Agenda includes a $100,000 investment to expand the grant initiative and help connect more Minnesotans of color with good-paying jobs in the skilled trades.

       Ensuring Minnesotans Receive Wages Earned – Wage theft occurs when employers do not pay employees what is owed for work already performed. Wage theft costs hardworking Minnesotans and their families millions of dollars they already have earned. The Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) estimates 39,000 Minnesota workers suffer from wage theft each year – costing workers $11.9 million in wages. The Governor’s Opportunity Agenda would invest $1 million to expand DLI’s investigations and prevent wage theft. READ MORE

       Supporting Opportunity for Minnesotans with Disabilities – The unemployment rate for Minnesotans with disabilities is more than double that of the general population. Minnesotans with disabilities who do find employment are far more likely to receive poverty-level wages. Governor Dayton has proposed a $7 million investment in Minnesota’s Vocational Rehabilitation program to ensure that Minnesotans with the most significant disabilities receive employment training and counseling, to ensure they are able to find and keep a job and live as independently as desired. The Opportunity Agenda also would make changes to help people with disabilities to live in their communities.

       Cutting Taxes for Working Families – Governor Dayton has proposed tax cuts that would benefit working and middle class Minnesota families, by cutting state taxes to match federal changes, and putting $93 million back in the pockets of hardworking taxpayers through the Working Family Credit. More than 372,000 families would see more money on their bottom line under the plan from Governor Dayton. 

       Ending Unfair Lending Practices – Many Minnesotans with low-incomes struggle to pay their living expenses and live paycheck to paycheck. When unexpected costs arise, these families are forced to rely on high interest “payday” loans, which often carry interest rates of more than 200 percent. These loans can plunge Minnesota’s most vulnerable families into cycles of debt. Governor Dayton’s budget would close loopholes allowing payday lenders to make interest rates much higher than intended under state law. It also would limit borrowers to no more than four short-term loans in a 12-month period.

       Protecting Equal Opportunity Across Minnesota – To improve enforcement of state human rights law and make it easier for Minnesotans to file human rights complaints, Governor Dayton has proposed a $2.3 million investment to open regional Department of Human Rights’ offices in Duluth, Rochester, and Worthington. These offices ensure that individuals across Minnesota are afforded the protections and opportunities they deserve under state law.

       Workforce Goals for Bonding Projects – Governor Dayton’s Jobs Bill requires construction contractors, who receive state funding to complete local infrastructure projects, comply with Minnesota’s existing workforce hiring goals. The Governor’s proposed reform will help ensure state construction projects benefit all Minnesotans and reflect the rich diversity of our state.

       Emerging Entrepreneur Loan Program – While people of color comprise a rapidly growing share of Minnesota’s overall population, less than 10 percent of all Minnesota businesses are minority-owned. As our state’s demographics change, it is imperative that we improve economic opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs to create good new jobs. Governor Dayton’s budget would reform the Emerging Entrepreneur Loan Program (EELP) to better support businesses owned by people of color and women. The Governor’s proposal would allow EELP lenders to forgive remaining payments once 90 percent of the principal has been repaid.

       Working Capital for Small Businesses – Minnesota’s Working Capital Loan Fund helps small businesses get the funding needed to cover operating costs like wages and supplies until they receive payments for work on state transportation projects. It is intended to close the gap experienced by small-businesses on construction projects. Governor Dayton’s budget would make a one-time investment of $1.5 million to improve equity and reduce disparities in contracting, by providing an infusion of working capital for socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.


Building Healthy Families and Communities

       Addressing Health Disparities – Minnesota, on average, ranks among the healthiest states in the nation. However, Minnesota has some of the worst health care disparities between groups in the nation. The Governor’s budget would invest $1 million to alleviate health disparities in communities of color in Minnesota. This funding would help analyze trends in communities, provide direct outreach to improve health outcomes, and provide grants to community health boards or nonprofits dedicated to reducing rates of violence, suicide, and drug overdose – causes of preventable death with tremendous disparities for veterans, communities of color, and American Indians. 

       MinnesotaCare Buy-In – Governor Mark Dayton is seeking to build on the bipartisan successes of MinnesotaCare. To lower prices for more Minnesotans, Governor Dayton wants to give everyone who buys their insurance on the individual health insurance market the choice to buy-into MinnesotaCare. Minnesotans who choose “MinnesotaCare Buy-In” would pay their own way –meaning the cost of their premiums would pay for their coverage, without any additional ongoing costs to Minnesota taxpayers. GET THE FACTS about the proposal.

       Reducing Exposure to Asbestos – For decades, asbestos were added to common building materials, such as insulation, pipes, and sheetrock, to improve strength and fire resistance. However, asbestos fibers can cause severe lung diseases and cancer decades after the initial exposure. To help low-income Minnesotans remediate their homes, Governor Dayton’s budget would invest $260,000 a year in the state’s Healthy Asbestos Insulation Remediation (Healthy AIR) Program.

       Fighting the Opioid Epidemic – Opioid deaths have increased 430 percent in Minnesota since 2000. Eighty percent of Americans addicted to heroin started out taking prescription pain medications. Governor Dayton’s budget includes funding to improve statewide tracking of overdoses in Minnesota so law enforcement and health officials can respond more quickly and effectively. It also would invest $4 million for Minnesota’s Tribal Nations and urban American Indian communities to fund prevention programs to reduce opioid abuse. READ MORE about these efforts.


Safe and Stable Housing for All Minnesotans 

       Opening the Door to the American Dream – Americans have historically accumulated wealth and saved money for the future through homeownership. Currently, 77 percent of white households own their homes, while only 39 percent of households of color own their homes in Minnesota. This disparity is often aggravated by the unique barriers to homeownership facing Minnesotans of color. Governor Dayton’s Opportunity Agenda would invest $2 million to level the playing field for eligible first-time homebuyers with financial counseling and assistance with down payments and closing costs.

       A Second Chance for Quality, Affordable Housing – Minnesotans with a past criminal conviction can struggle to find work and housing decades later. In 2014, Governor Dayton signed legislation prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about most criminal convictions. This year, the Governor is proposing a $300,000 investment to extend the “Ban the Box” concept into rental housing. Under Governor Dayton’s proposal, landlords would have to proactively inform prospective applicants that a criminal background check would be conducted, how that information would be used, and what offenses would be disqualifying.


Closing Opportunity Gaps for Minnesota Students

       Homework Starts with Home – Approximately 167,000 Minnesota households with children face housing instability. Research shows that homeless and mobile children are more likely to be absent from school, perform worse on math and reading tests, and eventually drop out. Through the Homework Starts with Home program, the Dayton Opportunity Agenda includes $8 million to provide rental assistance to Minnesota families with children to ensure that students have stable housing throughout the school year. READ MORE about this initiative.

       Investing in Student Success – Minnesota college students of color are less likely to graduate than their white peers. With Minnesota becoming increasingly diverse and a looming workforce shortage, we cannot afford to leave any of our students behind. Governor Dayton has proposed a $2.6 million investment for the Investing in Student Success initiative at the University of Minnesota. The resources would provide support services and opportunities to low-income, first-generation, and students of color at the University.

       Engaging Teachers, Engaging Minds – Good teachers can make all the difference for kids accessing opportunity and achieving success in their lives. But each year, Minnesota schools lose about 5,800 teachers to retirement, relocation to other states, and career changes, with Greater Minnesota communities hit especially hard. Teaching is engaging and important work – good teachers help close the achievement gap, and serve as advocates and role models. To expand opportunities for teachers, students, and communities across our state, the Governor has proposed a $5 million investment to help train and attract more than 800 potential teachers by 2021.

       Better Classrooms for American Indian Students – Minnesota has four federal Bureau of Indian schools, which serve over 750 students on tribal reservations. These schools operate in aging, often decrepit facilities, with limited financial resources. Governor Dayton’s budget invests $4.4 million to help ensure students at these schools, receive the same state aid that students at other public schools enjoy. Without the Governor’s proposed investment, state funding for these schools would drop 45 percent next year.


Building Stronger Community Partnerships 

       Improving Tribal-State Relations – Continuing the Dayton Administration’s commitment to strengthening relationships with tribal governments, the Governor has proposed several investments to improve communications. Governor Dayton’s budget would invest $410,000 to continue the Department of Transportation’s innovative Tribal-State Relations Training for state employees. In addition, the Governor’s budget would allocate $194,000, allowing the Department of Revenue to hire a tribal liaison that would work with Minnesota’s Tribal Nations on tax issues.

       Making State Government Technology Accessible – Minnesotans increasingly rely on state government website and technology to access important resources and services. However, these systems are not always designed to meet the needs of Minnesotans with disabilities. This year, the Governor has proposed a $500,000 investment for an external assessment of state agency technology accessibility and develop remediation plans for major state technology systems.

       World-Class Training for Law Enforcement – Law enforcement officers are regularly asked to make life and death decisions in a matter of moments. Governor Dayton’s Opportunity Agenda includes $10 million to ensure that local law enforcement officers receive world-class training, while strengthening relationships with members of the communities they serve.

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CLICK HERE to learn more about all of Governor Dayton’s proposed investments in his Opportunity Agenda for a Better Minnesota. CLICK HERE to read more about the Governor’s proposed budget “At a Glance.”