RALEIGH — Policy analysts from the John Locke Foundation will discuss taxes, the state budget, property rights, education, the state’s economy, and other key issues this election season in a series of 25 events across the state during the month of September.
The “Agenda 2002 Tour” — organized by the Locke Foundation, the North Carolina chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy, and a variety of local organizations — will begin Tuesday, September 3 at a 6 p.m. meeting in Wilmington. The title of the tour refers to Agenda 2002: A Candidate’s Guide to North Carolina Public Policy, a briefing book to be released and discussed at each tour stop.
Locke Foundation Chairman and President John Hood and vice presidents Don Carrington, Roy Cordato, and Kory Swanson are among the scheduled speakers at the various events, which include hosted luncheons and receptions, appearances before civic groups, and presentations at monthly meetings of grassroots organizations. Locke analysts will also make dozens of appearances with North Carolina’s print and broadcast media during the tour, which concludes September 24 with a luncheon in Fayetteville.
“The purpose of Agenda 2002 is to inform candidates, journalists, business and community leaders, political activists, and the general public about the serious issues facing North Carolina state and local governments,” said Hood, who edited the new report. “Because we believe so strongly in the importance of public debate about the future of our state, we are investing significant time and resources into the ‘Agenda 2002 Tour’ to give citizens a chance to obtain a free copy of the report and ask questions about it.”
Some of the key findings in Agenda 2002 include:
• After adjusting for inflation and population growth, North Carolina’s General Fund budget grew by 75 percent in just the past 20 years. The total state and local tax burden nearly doubled during the same period. State tax cuts in the mid-1990s were more than offset by larger state and local tax increases in the early 1990s and additional tax hikes in each of the past three years.
• Looking at 20 years of trends in education outcomes, highway quality, crime rates, and other indicators of the success of public services, few improved at a rate corresponding to the rate of growth in government spending, and some actually worsened during the period.
• Scores on the state’s end-of-grade tests have risen far more rapidly than has North Carolina’s performance on independent national tests, raising questions of reliability in the wake of recent mistakes in the state’s test design and scoring.
• North Carolina’s Medicaid program is among the most expensive state programs in the United States, and had grown so rapidly that it threatens the long-term fiscal health of state and local governments.
• Implementation of tough welfare reforms in North Carolina, particularly those allowing counties to design their own innovative programs, coincided with a significant improvement in the state’s relative performance in moving its citizens off the welfare rolls.
The Locke Foundation has published a briefing book every two years since 1996, and has held regional meeting tours every Spring and Fall since 1997. Its “Tax Awareness Tour,” cosponsored with CSE-North Carolina in April, attracted more than 1,300 participants at two dozen events through the state.
A statewide poll of likely voters traditionally concludes Locke’s Agenda project; the “Agenda 2002 Poll,” including questions on policy issues and candidate preferences, will be released in early October. During the past three election cycles, the Locke Foundation’s Agenda polls have been among the most accurate predicators of electoral outcomes of any publicly released poll in North Carolina.
“Agenda 2002 Tour” events scheduled as of August 26 include stops in the following cities: Wilmington (Sept. 3); Winston-Salem (Sept. 4); Raleigh (Sept. 5); North Wilkesboro (Sept. 9); Charlotte, Marion, Boone, and Bakersville (Sept. 12); New Bern, Asheville, and Hickory (Sept. 13); Lincolnton and Lenoir (Sept. 16); Goldsboro, Wilson, and Wingate (Sept. 17); Hillsborough (Sept. 18); Sanford, Laurinburg, and Roanoke Rapids (Sept. 19); Southern Pines (Sept. 20); Clinton and North Raleigh (Sept. 23); and Fayetteville (Sept. 24).
More details about individual events will be included in subsequent releases. For more information about the John Locke Foundation’s previous Agenda briefing books and more recent research activities, visit http://www.JohnLocke.org.