WPRI is now the Badger Institute

On its 30th anniversary, the Badger Institute announces new, ambitious tax policy initiative, revamped magazine, fellows program and statewide events

Read More

Why the Badger Institute?

The Badger moniker has deep, meaningful roots in Wisconsin. 

Watch Video

Digging deeper

We’ve renamed and revamped our magazine. The new issue covers the left’s cultural appropriation complaints, federal regs that wipe out Act 10 savings, Madison’s goofy flag flap and more. 

Read More

‘Focus on people, not paperwork’

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos vows to free local educators from paperwork and give them more say over how federal school dollars are spent.

Read More

The impact and influence of the Badger Institute


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Sen. Lena Taylor, Sen. Leah Vukmir and others discuss the impact that the Badger Institute (formerly WPRI) has had – and continues to have – in advancing free-market principles and policies.


Watch video here.

What's New From the Badger Institute

The Foxconn project

We provide a synopsis of the potential costs and benefits of the Foxconn LCD plant in Racine County and the analyses of three economists and a tech journalist who offer words of both caution and encouragement. 

Mike Nichols: Unprecedented decision, disparate opinions
Andrew Hanson: Why Wisconsinites should be skeptical
Noah Williams: Fiscal costs certain, but a potential for large gains
Ike Brannon: There are better ways to create jobs and growth
Robert S. Anthony: What will the future of LCDs mean for Wisconsin?


Webinar on Interstate Tolling for Wisconsin

In case you missed it, here's the June 26 webinar featuring Robert W. Poole Jr. on the potential benefits of Interstate tolling as Wisconsin grapples with its perennial transportation funding dilemma. Poole is director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation and author of Rebuilding and Modernizing Wisconsin's Interstate with Toll Financing.





Rating YoungStar

How Wisconsin's child care quality rating and improvement system measures up.
by Rob Grunewald, Michael Jahr and Matt Snyder
June 2017




Policy Resources for Wisconsin Lawmakers

The Badger Institute compiled a list of resources for state policy-makers as they debate issues ranging from professional licensure to transportation funding to corrections reform. This handy compilation includes reports, commentaries and videos designed to inform public discourse on issues that will affect Wisconsin residents for years to come.








State licensing rules stymie Green Bay barber and UW entrepreneurs

Albert Walker, whose clients include many Packers players, has years of barbering experience but can’t run his own shop.
Watch video of Albert Walker
Ex-offender Albert Walker’s new barber lounge in Green Bay is in jeopardy due to an onerous state licensing law.





Samuel Haack and James Rohde, UW-Madison students, want to launch an Uber-like, on-demand barbering business to connect clients with barbers outside licensed establishments. But Wisconsin's professional licensing regulations stand in their way.





Spring 2017 Magazine

► Nigel Ashford: What "classical liberal' really means
► Sunny Schubert: Rural resentment laid bare
► Brian Reisinger: State forestland program shifts tax burden
► Mike Nichols: Occupational licensure run amok
► Ike Brannon & Devorah Goldman: State's opioid scourge
► Jan Uebelherr: One addict's slow descent into darkness
► Dan Benson: Is Milwaukee a "donor" city or drain?
► Richard Esenberg: Conservatives: Keep eyes on the prize



Black Robes & Blue Collars

"Black Robes & Blue Collars," identifies policy changes to Wisconsin's expungement and sentence adjustment laws that could lighten the state's prison load, increase employment opportunities for ex-offenders and help employers find workers. The report includes two policy briefs:

► Problems with Wisconsin’s Expungement Law: How the Law is Used and How to Make It More Equitable and Effective 
► Sentence Adjustment Petitions: Are They Working?
 President's Note: Give judges the information they need




Mike Nichols' testimony on professional licensure

On April 6, 2017, Badger Institute President Mike Nichols testified in Madison before the Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing & State-Federal Relations. 

Nichols appeared with Krissy Hudack, a salon owner from northern Wisconsin who says the state's licensure system makes it tough for small businesses like hers. Hudack was among the people whom the Badger Institute profiled in its April report "Government's Love for Licensure."

Nichols said in his testimony: "Yes, sometimes the government is needed to safeguard the citizens to whom it belongs. But far too often, according to our authors, there appears to be another motive. Simply put, the authors believe that the steady increase in professional licensing is being driven by both the well-intended but excessive growth of government and a desire to protect incumbents from competition."

Read a transcript of Nichols' presentation


Videos of Unlocking Potential event
On Feb. 14, 2017, the Badger Institute hosted a forum titled "Unlocking Potential" that drew more than 100 participants representing law enforcement, the judiciary, the Legislature, business, community groups and faith leaders. The event at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee featured Hope for Prisoners founder and CEO Jon Ponder, Woodson Center President Bob Woodson, representatives of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

The discussion focused on how ex-inmates, with help from one of their own and the same cops who once pursued them, can find a way back to their families and jobs. 

► Watch full video of the event here.
► Read our "Unlocking Potential" report, which includes an in-depth profile of Hope for Prisoners, here.


Unlocking Potential
Our report highlights strategy for reducing recidivism through investment in work, training and re-entry programs, and encourages the use of social impact bonds.
Wisconsin's historical policy dilemma on corrections
The state can't afford status quo
Re-entry program offers Hope for Prisoners
Alma Center: Breaking the cycle of abuse
MATC program puts offenders on career path

Private industry, prisons team up
Skilled trades program offers a second chance
Social impact bonds: A new way forward

 Watch Mike Nichols on "UpFront with Mike Gousha" discussing the need for corrections reform.


Putting the Squeeze on Consumers:
Real-World Impacts of Wisconsin's

Minimum Markup Law

► We take an in-depth look at how Wisconsin's Depression-era minimum markup law affects consumers and businesses every day.
Mike Nichols discusses the law on Radio 620 WTMJ's "Midday with Charlie Sykes." Listen to it here.
Nichols op-ed: Minimum markup isn't the American way



Badger Institute Media Mentions

Local schools deserve local control

Sheboygan Press: October 1, 2017


Local schools deserve local control

WisPolitics.com: September 26, 2017


Walker objects to challenger's Wisconsin education plan

USnews.com: September 14, 2017


Green Bay barber testifying to Legislature

WSAU.com: August 23, 2017

Look down the road in transportation funding debate
The Cap Times: July 21, 2017

Wisconsin residents still pay a mother lode of taxes

Wisconsin State Journal: July 6, 2017


Local Wisconsin leaders react to Trump's visit
Washington Examiner: June 13, 2017


NFL barber shop faces same kind of threat hurting patients
Townhall.com: June 9, 2017


Study finds Wisconsin poverty rate reached new low in 2015
Wisconsin Watchdog: June 8, 2017


Federal grants are the key to restraining bureaucracy

Washington Examiner: May 11, 2017


Bills meant to deregulate cosmetologists and barbers earn praise, raise concerns

WSAW-TV: May 3, 2017

Proposal would eliminate Wisconsin license for hair stylists 
WTMJ-TV: April 17, 2017


Poole: Wisconsin should act now on interstate tolling

Journal Sentinel: April 17, 2017


A new approach for occupational licensing in Wisconsin

Sheboygan Press: April 7, 2017


Can Milwaukee be considered a 'donor' city?

Sheboygan Press: March 31, 2017

Federal grant funding obscures how government is funded, diffuses accountability
Sunshine Week website: March 14, 2017


Nichols, Brannon: Help kids succeed before they get to college

Journal Sentinel: March 5, 2017

Hanson: EITC expansion will help Wisconsin's low- and middle-income workers

Journal Sentinel: February 23, 2017

Nichols: Rebuilding lives and the economy

Journal Sentinel: February 12, 2017


How a law designed to promote fairness is hiking gas prices in Wisconsin

The Daily Signal: February 9, 2017


Federalism is a watchword in new year

Rhinelander Daily News: February 2, 2017


Republicans urge Congress to cut back federal mandates

Minneapolis Star Tribune: January 24, 2017


New state Assembly committee looking at ways to take more control from federal government

Kenosha News: January 24, 2017


Alma Center addresses root causes of domestic violence

Journal Sentinel: December 18, 2016


Mike Nichols on corrections reform

"UpFront with Mike Gousha": December 11, 2016


Brannon: How to fix America's colleges
Journal Sentinel: November 26, 2016


Benson: Governing local is governing best
Journal Sentinel: November 13, 2016

Real Clear Policy: November 15, 2016

Franzen: Wisconsin GOP legislators should govern as true conservatives

Journal Sentinel: November 13, 2016

Experts assess college affordability proposals

Wausau Daily Herald: October 25, 2016

Congressman requests information from HUD regarding audits of St. Croix tribe

Inter-County Leader & Washburn County Register: September 28, 2016

Report suggests reimagined UW campus

Journal Sentinel:  September 29, 2016

Does lack of transparency encourage misuse of funds?

Inter-County Leader & Washburn County Register: September 2016

St. Croix Chippewa tribe officials misuse federal funds, audit shows, while poverty persists

Inter-County Leader & Washburn County Register: September 2016

Woodson: Take steps toward progress: responsibility, introspection
Journal Sentinel: August 21, 2016