State bonding bill prioritizes investment in Communities of Color

image of old building on american banknote
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has signed a nearly $1.9 billion bonding bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature in October. Included in the bill are funds set aside exclusively for investment in Communities of Color.

The state constitution was amended in 1962 to allow the state to take on debt and issue bonds to help pay for construction, upkeep of public buildings and other infrastructure, and review and assemble a package of other projects they want to fund. There have been bonding bills ever since.

“The bonding bill always felt like a secret handshake behind closed doors,” explained Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan in an MSR phone interview. 

It typically leads to hours of debate among lawmakers because of competing interests and pet projects. All bonding bills must have at least a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber—81 votes in the House and 41 votes in the Senate—in order to pass

The Minneapolis-based Cultural Wellness Center, Jutaposition Arts, and the proposed Baldwin Square theatre, café and art gallery development project in North Minneapolis are among nine groups that will receive Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) equity funding.

Flanagan conducted a four-stop “Local Jobs and Projects Tour” on October 29 to highlight the equity funding. “We need to reimage what bonding could look like for all Minnesotans,” she said. “It was important for us that right at the beginning of this process we asked to set aside $30 million specifically for projects led by and for Communities of Color.”

Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA) was founded in 1995 as an urban youth creative education organization on Minneapolis’ North Side. They will receive $1.1 million in state funds, Managing Director Gabrielle Grier told the MSR.

Investing in “predominately Black communities” is important to the Walz-Flanagan administration, Flanagan said, stressing that it is still unsure what will happen coming out of the pandemic, especially to communities of color.

“My hope is that $30 million will turn into $60 million, and so on,” said the lieutenant governor. “Our job now is to ensure that our communities are centered in policymaking and protecting the investments that have been in communities of color and Indigenous communities.”

The state funds will go toward JXTA’s current four-year $14 million capital and legacy campaign. Grier said they hope to break ground on a new building next summer.

 “We are in a moment that we can measure what equity looks like,” concluded Flanagan. “It took longer to pass [the bonding bill] than it should have. I think the bonding bill is one place where we can start to measure it.”