When Tommy Thompson became governor of Wisconsin in 1987, he had one mission - to build Wisconsin. As governor, he set forth an ambitious agenda of building Wisconsin, its communities and its people. Re-elected a record three times, Thompson succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
As governor, Tommy Thompson:
- Cut taxes 91 times, saving taxpayers $16.4 billion.
- Vetoed more than $287 million in wasteful spending.
- Helped create more than 742,000 new jobs in Wisconsin.
- Reduced the welfare caseload by 93 percent.
- Provided nearly 10,000 children choice in education.
Governor Thompson's tax cuts helped stimulate a faltering economy and create a positive economic climate that produced the most prolific period of success in Wisconsin history.
Among the highlights:
- Created more than 742,300 jobs since 1986.
Created more manufacturing jobs since 1986 than any other state in the nation but one (Texas, which is the second-most populous state in the union, compared to Wisconsin, which is the 18th). But Wisconsin showed an 18.8 percent gain in manufacturing jobs compared to Texas' 6.4 percent.
"Wisconsin has had extraordinarily strong growth in manufacturing." - UW-Madison economics professor Don Nichols in the (Madison) Wisconsin State Journal, 12-17-97.
- Wisconsin created 94,900 manufacturing jobs, while the nation lost more than 462,000 during that period. Manufacturing jobs in the state increased 18.8 percent compared to a 2 percent decline nationally.
- A record 69 percent of the state's working-age population has a wage or salary job in 2000 - up from 54 percent in 1986.
Before 1987, Wisconsin's job creation rate was plummeting well below the national average. By the late 1990s and 2000, the state was creating jobs at a rate 39 percent higher than the rest of the nation. As a result, Wisconsin's unemployment rate hit a record low of 2.6 percent in September 1999. By the time Governor Thompson left office, Wisconsin's unemployment rate was below the national rate for 153 straight months.
Under Governor Thompson, Wisconsin was the unquestioned leader in welfare reform in the 1980s and 1990s. In the time he was in office, Wisconsin cut its monthly welfare caseload by more than 93 percent - from 98,000 AFDC families and 190,000 children in January 1987 to fewer than 6,800 W-2 cash assistance families and 15,000 children when Governor Thompson left office in January 2001.
Under Governor Thompson, Wisconsin was the first state to:
- Require a measure of performance from AFDC recipients in return for their checks by requiring recipients to send their children to school (Learnfare 1987).
- Stop rewarding parents for having children they could not afford, 1994.
- Make fathers more directly accountable through Children First.
- Require work and time limit on benefits. ("Work Not Welfare", January 1, 1995).
- Get its welfare-to-work replacement program approved (August 1996).
- The first state to end the welfare entitlement and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (September 1, 1997).
- And the first state to print its last AFDC check (March 2, 1998).
Wisconsin was so far ahead in its reforms that Gov. Thompson ended welfare and the AFDC entitlement check altogether and replaced it with a new program based on work called Wisconsin Works, better known as W-2. This program became the standard for welfare reform in America and countries around the world.
Frustrated that low-income parents in Milwaukee had few education alternatives for their children because of their economic status, Governor Thompson pursued a landmark school choice program that empowered those parents to determine which school their children would attend. In 1990, he created the nation's first private school choice program. This initial program allowed low-income parents in Milwaukee to send their children to a private, non-sectarian school if they chose. This program was an important first step to providing low-income families the same educational opportunities available to families with greater resources.
The program was deemed successful, but there were only a limited number of private non-sectarian schools in Milwaukee. So, in 1995, Governor Thompson took the next step and expanded the private school choice program to include religious schools - another national first for Wisconsin. The expansion gave parents a true choice in schools, including more schools within walking distance of their homes. Finally, Governor Thompson also helped create public school choice for the entire state, allowing parents and students to attend any public school of their choice so long as there is sufficient room at the school.
When he left office in 2001, there were nearly 10,000 children in 114 schools participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
Leadership Through HealthAfter serving 14 years as Governor of
Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson became the 19th Secretary of Health and Human
Services on February 2, 2001. He told Department employees his first
day on the job that he planned an "aggressive agenda" in leading HHS.
the next four years, Secretary Thompson led HHS forward in every area
imaginable. By the time he left office in 2005, Medicare was providing
more comprehensive care to more American seniors than ever before. The
nation was spending more on medical research than at any time in
history. HHS was better prepared than ever to respond to terrorist
attacks or any other public health emergency. More community health
centers were providing more and better care to more needy Americans
than ever before. Preventive health was among the nation's top health
care priorities. Children's immunization rates were at a record high. A
record number of children were receiving health care. The United States
emerged as the unquestioned leader in fighting HIV/AIDS around the
world. And families in Afghanistan and Iraq have hope for a healthier
future after decades of neglect under brutal regimes.
Among The Highlights:
Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.
Secretary Thompson was the point man in ensuring the passage of the
Medicare Modernization Act. Thanks to this historic legislation,
America's seniors and people living with disabilities for the first
time have access to a prescription drug benefit under Medicare, as well
as new preventive benefits that will ensure they are getting the care
they need to prevent more serious illness down the road.
Public Health Preparedness.
In the aftermath of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks of October 2001,
Secretary Thompson led the way in rebuilding the nation's public health
infrastructure. While there is still a long way to go, he oversaw the
investment of $14.8 billion in our nation's public health system to
ensure we are better prepared than at any time in our nation's history
to respond to a bioterror or any other public health emergency.
The United States today is the unquestioned leader in fighting HIV/AIDS
around the world following billions of dollars in investments at home
and abroad and a renewed emphasis on prevention, research and
treatment. Secretary Thompson served as the Chairman of the Global Fund
to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and urged the Administration to
significantly increase its investment in fighting the diseases in
Secretary Thompson launched the "Decade of Health Information
Technology" and has worked tirelessly to encourage health care
providers to bring their practices into the 21st century to reduce
medical errors, save lives and save money.
The budget to fight flu includes a seven-fold increase in four years,
including initiatives to stabilize demand, develop a new-generation
vaccine and the purchase of antiviral medications to treat people who
become ill. Additionally, in August 2004, Secretary Thompson unveiled
the department's draft Pandemic Influenza Response and Preparedness
Plan. This plan outlines a coordinated national strategy to prepare for
and respond to a flu pandemic. Though public health professionals for
years talked about the need for such a plan, it took Secretary
Thompson's leadership to get it done.
Secretary Thompson led the way in promoting healthy lifestyles at the
national, state and local levels, as well as in workplaces around the
country, by encouraging Americans to eat healthier, quit smoking and
become more active.
HHS completed the doubling of the research budget at the National
Institutes of Health, while working to develop next generation vaccines
to fight the flu and bioterror agents, such as anthrax and smallpox.
On Easter 2003, Secretary Thompson and Afghan health officials opened
the improved and refurbished Rabia Balkhi Women's Hospital in Kabul as
part of the administration's commitment to assist the people of
Afghanistan, especially in the area of maternal and child health. After
Secretary Thompson's trip to Afghanistan in October 2002, HHS worked
with the Department of Defense to refurbish and provide training for
staff at the hospital, which - after years of civil war and neglect -
was in terrible condition, with no working plumbing, broken windows and
equipment, and few drugs and supplies.