Beacon Hill budget negotiators are currently hashing out funding for programs aimed at improving racial disparities in health, housing and education in Massachusetts.
Analysts at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center said as the state celebrates Juneteeth and Black emanicipation, now is the time for voters to pay careful attention to their actions versus their words, and political rhetoric versus reality.
"Politicians can say, 'Oh yes, I like this ... I like that,'' but how much they really value one thing or the other gets expressed ... in the state budget," MassBudget policy director Phineas Baxandall said. "We wanted to look at that in terms of racial equity and which kinds of choices are being made. What's really at stake as we get to this advanced stage in the budget where people tend to see budget negotiations as about which politician is winning or about numbers. We wanted to bring it back to the values and particularly the values of our own racial equity."
Here are five proposals MassBudget is watching:
1. Collection of uniform data around race in state programs
Currently, demographic data are tracked differently across state programs and agencies and demographic categories do not necessarily reflect how people identify themselves. Better quality demographic data can help officials recognize and understand racial inequities in public programs. are implemented.
2. Adoption of in-state tuition for undocumented students
A policy under legislative consideration would require a minimum of three years of high school education in Massachusetts and a high school diploma or GED before allowing qualifying undocumented young people to receive in-state tuition. Currently, 23 states offer in-state tuition programs for young people.
3. Expansion of housing for people with prior convictions
Some individuals are “locked out” from receiving housing aid because of prior convictions. Housing aid can reduce recidivism and help former inmates re-integrate into a community. Black people account for 28 percent of the incarcerated population in Massachusetts, but only 7 percent of the state’s overall population.
4. Increases in funding for childcare
Massachusetts residents of color are more likely to experience poverty and more likely to be eligible for childcare support. Children of color are also overrepresented (based on their share of the population) within the Department of Children and Families (DCF). This makes increased spending on childcare subsidies important for advancing racial justice for families.
5. Elimination of bus transit fares for riders, expansion of service times
The 15 regional transit authorities that operate public buses in eastern Massachusetts serve a disproportionate number of riders of color who rely on bus transit to get everywhere, from work, to doctors appointments and the grocery store.
Read more about the legislative proposals and what's at stake in MassBudget's report here.