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.

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Why the Badger Institute?

The Badger moniker has deep, meaningful roots in Wisconsin. 

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New Year's resolutions
for Wisconsin policy-makers

Priorities should include tax reform, corrections, tolling, professional licensure and kicking the federal grant habit.

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Wisconsin school officials want federal role in local education reduced

Funding regulations hamper districts and don’t improve education, local officials say in Badger Institute survey.

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Full Survey

Occupational licensing reforms signed into law

Several regulations removed from the books, freeing barbers, cosmetologists and other beauty professionals from onerous and unneeded requirements.

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Invasion of the federal bean counters

Hordes of Wisconsin government workers are employed to ‘check boxes’ for the feds. By Dave Daley.

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Schools hire pricey grant specialists

Paperwork takes staff away from daily responsibilities and educating kids, officials say. By Julie Grace.

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What's new from the Badger Institute

Occupational licensure reforms signed into law

Barber Albert Walker looks on as Gov. Scott Walker signs licensure reform bills on Nov. 27.Madison — Barbers, cosmetologists and other beauty professionals will now be able to practice their professions with fewer regulatory burdens after Gov. Scott Walker on Nov. 27 signed into law reforms that will reduce complicated and costly licensing requirements. Read more here.


Government's love for licensure

Read our April report, “Government’s love for licensure,” which tells the real-world stories of Wisconsinites stymied by the state's burdensome licensure system. The Assembly's action on Nov. 9 removes some of the regulations highlighted in the report.

Senate testimony on licensure reform

Badger Institute President Mike Nichols testified on April 6 before the Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing & State-Federal Relations. He was joined by Krissy Hudack, a northern Wisconsin salon owner who says the state's licensure system makes it tough for small businesses like hers. Hudack was among the people profiled in "Government's love for licensure." Read a transcript of Nichols' presentation.

More stories and videos

The Badger Institute also profiled business people and entrepreneurs hampered by Wisconsin's licensure rules:

Albert Walker, an ex-offender whose clients include many Packers players, has years of barbering experience but can't run his own shop due to onerous state licensing regulations. Watch video of Albert Walker. Read his story.


UW-Madison students Samuel Haack and James Rohde want to launch an on-demand barbering business to connect clients with barbers off premises. But Wisconsin's professional licensing regulations stand in their way. Read their story.

Release: Institute welcomes Assembly commitment to comprehensive tax reform

Nov. 2, 2017 — The Badger Institute and the Tax Foundation are moving forward with an analysis of the state's tax structure and policy recommendations for the 2019 budget. Read our press release here.

The impact and influence of the Badger Institute




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Diggings Fall 2017

Our frozen melting pot ... and who's responsible. By Aaron Rodriguez.
Madison's goofy, divisive flag flap. By Mike Nichols.
Act 10 savings torpedoed. By Dan Benson and Julie Grace.
The shameless chase for federal money. By Dave Daley.
The festering mess that is Illinois. By Jay Miller.
► Taking a seat: Profile of Daniel Kelly. By Dave Daley.
The future of Foxconn. By Robert S. Anthony.
The Age of Trump: View from a Never Trumper. By Charles J. Sykes.
The Age of Trump: View from a Trump supporter. By Bruce S. Thornton.
How times have changed for conservatives. By Richard Esenberg.

The Foxconn project

We provide a synopsis of the potential costs and benefits of the Foxconn LCD plant and analyses of 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

View our 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. Wisconsin needs to continue YoungStar and make sure tax dollars do not flow to substandard providers.
By Rob Grunewald, Michael Jahr and Matt Snyder
June 2017

Policy resources for Wisconsin lawmakers

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

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.

► 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

Videos of Unlocking Potential event

On Feb. 14, 2017, the Badger Institute hosted an Unlocking Potential forum that drew more than 100 participants representing law enforcement, the judiciary, the Legislature, business, community groups and faith leaders. 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.

Unlocking Potential

Report highlights strategies 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
Mike Nichols on "UpFront with Mike Gousha"

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

► An in-depth look at how Wisconsin's Depression-era minimum markup law affects consumers and businesses every day.
► Mike Nichols: Minimum markup isn't the American way

Project for 21st Century Federalism

The Project for 21st Century Federalism is the Badger Institute's multi-year investigation of the growth in federal grants and their effect on state and local governance. Stories in the project include:


Wisconsin school officials want federal role in local education reduced
Full school survey on federal funding
Invasion of the federal bean counters
Schools hire high-priced specialists to deal with complex federal grant rules
Cutting federal grants can be political suicide for elected officials
Press release on Walker asking DPI to resubmit education funding plan
Federal rules distort local education policy
► Wisconsin legislators missing opportunity in ESSA to take control of education
► Follow the money: Federal grants are the key to constraining bureaucracy
HUD report leaves questions unanswered regarding tribe's use of federal funds
Sunshine Week: Federal grants obscure spending, diffuse accountability
► The bureaucratic 'skim' of federal school funding
The federalization of Wisconsin DPI
Keeping ‘real money’ local helps solve real problems
Analysis: Cash-strapped school districts burdened by federal grant regulations
While poverty persists for St. Croix Chippewa, tribe officials misuse federal funds, audit shows
Press release on the launch of the Federal Grant$tanding project

Badger Institute's media mentions

New law makes it easier on barbers
NBC26 in Green Bay: December 3, 2017

Other views: The festering mess that is Illinois
Janesville Gazette: November 29, 2017

Mike Nichols on federal tax spending at local school districts
The Jerry Bader Show: October 31, 2017

RightWisconsin Conversations with Michael Jahr
RightWisconsin podcast: October 25, 2017

WPRI becomes the Badger Institute
Today's TMJ4: October 24, 2017

Mike Nichols on name change from WPRI
The Jerry Bader Show: October 18, 2017

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
Rock 94.7 FM: August 23, 2017

Green Bay barber testifying to Legislature
WSAU.com: August 23, 2017

Barber, UW student to explain how licensure stymies their startups
WisBusiness.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

Dems attempt to mobilize lobbyists against licensing reform
Media Trackers: 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