Marilyn Rubin

Opening the core routines of budgeting to include an equity dimension can make government more responsive to all its residents and can provide a pathway to a more equitable society. In this project, we are looking to see if, and how, city and state governments in the United States are using their budgets to advance equity for all residents with the goal of determining whether there are lessons that can be learned for New Jersey.

State Governments: Budget Laws and Equity

To date, we have found that many states are not changing their budget laws, specifically existing performance budgeting laws, to incorporate social equity language. It should be noted, however, that some states have had performance budgeting initiatives in the past to advance social equity (including those specific to education).

State Government DEI initiatives: Institutional Placement

As part of our analysis of how states are incorporating equity into their budgets, we are conducting a sweep of state diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. We are finding a wide range of DEI initiatives that, depending on the state, vary in institutional location and scope. In some states, the DEI initiative is a cabinet-level position. In other states, the chief DEI officer is not a cabinet level position but the officer reports directly to the Governor. Other DEI initiatives are found in specific departments such as Human Resources and Departments of Health and Human Services. Examples of the institutional arrangements of state DEI initiatives include:

Equity Initiatives in the States

We have also identified several equity initiatives in the states that can inform efforts in New Jersey. In general, the initiatives seem to be vested in promoting equity in health care services, broadband access, workforce access, and education, although some have been established to combat inequities broadly or are internal to state government employment. Several equity-related initiatives that may or may not be tied to the budget come with specific funding or have specified performance metrics. Examples of efforts attendant to the advancement of social equity in state programming, services and results include the following:

  • Vermont. In 2019, the state legislature established an Office of Racial Equity that works with local, state, federal, and non-profit partners to advance equity.
  • Washington. The state created an Office of Equity in 2021 to work with agencies to increase access to equitable opportunities, bridge gaps and reduce disparities.
  • Oregon. The state established the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion/Affirmative Action to provide leadership and support to state agencies. The Office also oversees development of state business policies to eliminate bias and barriers for businesses owned by minorities, women, and veterans and for small businesses.
  • Colorado. During the 2021 legislative session, the State Senate passed a funding increase for a new chief equity officer position.

The next step in the equity project is to look at how equity initiatives that have been incorporated into state and city budget actions across the country can inform New Jersey’s efforts to encourage state agencies to prioritize and address such initiatives within their budgets, programs, and activities.