Wisconsin Tax Options: A Guide
to Fair, Simple, Pro-Growth Reform

A new book by the Badger Institute and the Tax Foundation details how Wisconsin’s overall tax structure remains behind competitor states in simplicity, tax rates and business climate for residents and investment.

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Transportation funding dilemma

A primer on Wisconsin's unsustainable transportation revenues. The state's funding challenge is exacerbated by its past reliance on borrowing. Report by Dale Knapp.

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Dental Therapists: A Solution to Wisconsin's Costly Dental Access Problem?

Dental therapists could improve access, use and outcomes, while reducing economic costs associated with the dental care monopoly and unnecessary ER visits for dental treatment. Policy brief by Jason Hicks and Morris M. Kleiner.

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Overcoming a mountain of occupational regulation in Wisconsin requires more than baby steps

New state report doesn’t include comparisons with other states and policy recommendations. By visiting fellow Ed Timmons.

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Breaking the cycle of incarceration

When law enforcement and ex-offenders come together, good things can happen. Partners in Hope is a Milwaukee prisoner reentry program where cops, federal agents and prosecutors (among others) offer training, mentorship and friendship to people returning from prison or jail. The result is changed perspectives and transformed lives on both sides. 

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What's new from the Badger Institute

How Wisconsin policy punishes low-income families for getting married

Policy brief: The state should make common-sense changes to Wisconsin Earned Income Tax Credit to mitigate the marriage penalty.

'Banning the box,' or boxing people out?

Policy brief: Fair-chance hiring policies may hurt the job-seekers they aim to help. 

Wisconsin Tax Options: A Guide to Fair, Simple, Pro-Growth Reform

A new book by the Badger Institute and the Tax Foundation is based on a year of over 100 interviews with Wisconsin taxpayers, businesses and lawmakers, as well as a top-to-bottom study of the Badger State’s tax code history and trends.

Expungement Reform: Pathways to Employment

Wisconsin legislators and stakeholders held a news conference on Jan. 29 to unveil the "Expungement Reform: Pathways to Employment" bill. The bill would allow individuals with misdemeanors or Class H and I felonies to also seek expungement after they serve their sentence, remove the age 25 restriction and would apply retroactively to those who served time before the new legislation.

Institute grows team, moves to larger office

Julie GraceKirsten GolinskiBrad WassinkEd Timmons




The Badger Institute's growth will allow even greater impact on key policy issues, President Mike Nichols says. Recent personnel changes include: Julie Grace, policy analyst in the Institute's Center for Opportunity; Kirsten Golinski, development associate; Brad Wassink, policy consultant; and Dr. Ed Timmons, visiting fellow.

How federal grants are turning state governments against their own people​​​​​​

Almost a third of the money in many state government budgets now comes directly from Washington, D.C. But why are federal taxpayers paying for Wisconsin’s bike paths? By Mike Nichols and Dan Benson, published in The Federalist.

A journey of second chances

Imagine a prisoner reentry program where the mentors include an FBI agent and a former federal prosecutor. Or a graduation ceremony where ex-offenders are encouraged, cheered and hugged not just by family and friends but by police officers, prison officials and judges. Imagine what could happen if the law enforcement community partnered with nonprofit organizations and employers to increase the likelihood of successful transition back to the community, breaking the cycle of incarceration. This video tells the story of Partners in Hope, a new reentry program in Milwaukee that has made this vision a reality.

Wisconsin: A Blueprint for More Workers

Report provides an overview of labor force participation in Wisconsin. Increasing the rate by just 1 percentage point would increase state GDP by $667 annually per resident. By Badger Institute visiting fellows Ike Brannon and Andrew Hanson.

Rethinking Wisconsin’s Highways

The Badger Institute hosted transportation expert Bob Poole to discuss Rethinking Wisconsin’s Highways. Poole promoted public-private partnerships and user-based tolls to address the congestion, maintenance, funding battles and pork barrel spending associated with the status quo. Watch video here.

Licensure reform helps barbers, cosmetologists

Madison — Barbers, cosmetologists and other beauty professionals are now able to practice their professions with fewer regulatory burdens after reforms were signed into law that reduce complicated and costly licensing requirements. Read more here.


Government's love for licensure

Read our report, “Government’s love for licensure,” which tells the real-world stories of Wisconsinites stymied by the state's burdensome licensure system. Reforms signed into law remove some of the regulations highlighted in the report.

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, had years of barbering experience but, until recently passed reforms, couldn't run his own shop due to onerous state licensing regulations. Watch video of Albert Walker. Read his story.

The impact and influence of the Badger Institute




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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. Highlights of the project:

How federal grants are turning state governments against their own people​​​​​​
Badger Institute book urges states to push back
Press release on "Federal Grant$tanding" book
Records request illustrates lack of transparency of federal school funding
Private school principals say federal funding process is flawed
Teachers want to help kids, not do paperwork
Educators decry feds' heavy-handed approach toward local schools
Survey of Wisconsin teachers who work under federally funded programs
Wisconsin school officials want federal role in local education reduced
Full school survey on federal funding
Invasion of the federal bean counters
Schools hire high-priced specialists to deal with complex grant rules
Federal rules distort local education policy
Legislators miss opportunity in ESSA to take control of education
Bureaucratic 'skim' of federal school funding
The federalization of Wisconsin DPI
Cash-strapped school districts burdened by federal grant regulations
Press release on the launch of Federal Grant$tanding project

Badger Institute's media mentions

President Mike Nichols discusses tax reform with Steve Scaffidi
WTMJ Radio: Feb. 19, 2019

Road tolls are best way to fund highways
Urban Milwaukee: Feb. 10, 2019

Proposed bill provides offenders second chance to clear criminal records
The Daily Cardinal: Jan. 29, 2019

Supporters get chance to make case for Kimberly-Clark bill
Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Nov. 14, 2018

How federal grants are turning state governments against their own people
The Federalist: Oct. 26, 2018

Report: Growing number of state government jobs federally funded
Wisconsin Public Radio: Oct. 19, 2018

The real achievement of federalism
American Institute for Economic Research: Oct. 16, 2018

How licensing reform can help states and veterans
Real Clear Policy: Oct. 10, 2018

Badger book on federal grants
Cato Institute: Oct. 1, 2018

Wisconsin's criminal expungement rules keep needed workers out of jobs, study says
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: June 6, 2018

Bureaucracy devours funds that could support teaching
Deseret News: May 22, 2018

Analysis highlights tax migration exodus from Wisconsin
Watchdog.org: March 26, 2018

GOP tax bill provision aims to spark investment in low-income neighborhoods
Wisconsin Public Radio: March 18, 2018

Michael Jahr discusses the Center for Opportunity
Right Wisconsin podcast: March 9, 2018

The Case Against The Kimberly-Clark 'Bailout' Plan
Wisconsin Public Radio: February 28, 2018

Wisconsin seeks to build new prison
"UpFront with Mike Gousha": February 24, 2018

The Kimberly-Clark bailout is a bad idea
Right Wisconsin: February 21, 2018

Licensing reform could fulfill aspiring chiropractor's lifelong dream
Right Wisconsin: February 20, 2018

Why toll roads are Wisconsin's only realistic solution to its transportation roadblock
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: February 14, 2018

Tax credit, welfare reform among key issues facing Wisconsin lawmakers
Wisconsin Watchdog: February 9, 2018

The Badger Institute: Value-added tolling would address Gov. Walker’s concerns
WisPolitics.com: February 8, 2018

Value-added tolling would address Gov. Walker’s concerns
Urban Milwaukee: February 8, 2018

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