Our mission and vision at MassBudget is to advance policies that achieve racial and economic justice in our Commonwealth. Our state budget is one of the most powerful tools we have to live up to those values. It is the largest piece of legislation that passes through Beacon Hill each year. The budget is a $58 billion opportunity to demonstrate our shared values, priorities, and aspirations. It’s a moral document that can address inequities and unequal access to resources created by systemic racism.
This country was built upon racist ideas and policies that we must all work to undo everyday. Racial and economic inequities in our state did not arise by chance. They are the result of hundreds of years of policy decisions that have done harm. Our Black, brown, poor, LGBTQ, immigrant neighbors and friends are most likely to experience this harm. It’s time to write a different story.
The actions and decisions that we make today can repair harm throughout the Commonwealth. Wealth and income inequality in our state – combined with ever rising costs – disproportionately impacts Black and brown communities. We will not produce equitable outcomes if we ignore race in budgeting and policymaking. We must center Black and brown communities in our solutions.
This begins with antiracist budgeting. To achieve antiracist outcomes, we must critically examine our current policies and systems to understand how they work to promote or hinder equity. In her inaugural address, Governor Maura Healey proposed government-wide Equity Audits that would identify disparate impacts and outcomes across Massachusetts’s government. These equity audits have the potential to highlight barriers that have stood in the way of meaningful progress for many Bay Staters. A crucial starting point will be with the annual allocation of our Commonwealth’s financial resources. Our state budget.
To promote equity within the Commonwealth, we should*:
- Define what we mean by equity, racial justice, antiracism and other key terms.
- Engage and partner with a diverse group of stakeholders who are directly impacted by budget decisions. Provide clear information and seek and incorporate input. Decisions that are informed by the experiences of communities most affected by policies will yield more effective, equitable outcomes.
- Gather and analyze racial/ethnic/income/gender/localized data consistently to inform where to invest, program design and track progress and results. Examine the state’s ability to track policy outcomes, which includes the ability to collect data that is broken down by race and local geography.
- Gain deeper understanding of root causes driving inequities.
- Conduct racial equity impact assessments for policies and decision making
- Evaluate process. Examine decision-making processes as well as outcomes.
*These steps are adapted from Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Race Equity and Inclusion frameworks.
Equitable investments are critical. Thoughtful budget and tax policy formation can combat structural racism. How we spend and raise our public dollars is the clearest picture of our shared values. Our budgets — federal, state, and municipal — are the most concrete expression of our collective vision for the society we want. It’s all about investing in policies and programs that bring collective well-being and joy and divesting from those that keep us in the past.
This year, MassBudget is embarking on an Antiracist State Budget Project. The project strives to put forward antiracist approaches to policy making to meaningfully introduce antiracist frameworks to state government. So that, together, we can build a state budget that drives racial and economic justice in our Commonwealth.