Milwaukee-Based Free-Market Think Tank Expands with New Madison Office

The Badger Institute, a free-market think tank that has operated in Milwaukee since 1987, is expanding with a new office near the state Capitol. 

While the policy-research center, known in its early days as the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, will keep its principal headquarters in Cream City, its educational consultant Jim Bender and communications vice president Michael Jahr will staff the new Madison office. Badger leadership expects the new capital-city presence to bolster the think tank’s government-relations efforts. 

“A regular presence in Madison will allow us to more effectively provide research and educational resources to Madison policymakers and others in the Capitol,” institute president Mike Nichols said in a statement. “Our work has informed the public debate in Wisconsin for 35 years, but it’s not enough to just generate good ideas. We need to make sure that lawmakers are familiar with proven reforms and the benefits they can produce for their constituents.” 

Three other affiliates of the center-right State Policy Network currently operate in Wisconsin. One is the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty which also calls Milwaukee home. The other two, the Institute for Reforming Government and the MacIver Institute for Public Policy, are based in Madison. The Badger Institute is the oldest of the four. 

A major endeavor for the institute lately has been persuading Wisconsin lawmakers to embrace a flat income tax. Currently, the Badger State is one of 31 other states plus the District of Columbia with a graduated levy on residents’ income. 

Wisconsin has four income-tax brackets with a top marginal rate of 7.65 percent and a bottom rate of 3.54 percent. Only seven states plus Washington, D.C., have top rates exceeding Wisconsin’s. 

In advocating for a flat state income tax, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and State Representative Rob Brooks (R-Saukville) recently cited the Badger Institute’s Mandate for Madison, a free-enterprise-based policy agenda. 

“We remain committed to providing the most substantive, reliable policy research in Wisconsin,” Nichols said. “Our recent Mandate for Madison is probably the most robust, in-depth policy blueprint produced in Wisconsin. This new space will simply enhance our ability to advocate for free market principles and shape legislative outcomes.”

The new Madison office will be located on the fifth floor of 25 West Main Street.

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Wisconsin Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Madison, Wisconsin” by Dori. CC BY-SA 2.0.


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