Governor Tommy G. Thompson
Born November 19, 1941 in Elroy, Wisconsin
Wife, Sue Ann. Three children, Tommi, Kelli and Jason
B.S. 1963, J.D. 1966, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Served in the Wisconsin National Guard and the Army Reserve
Elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly 1966; Served as minority leader
Elected Governor of Wisconsin 1986; Reelected 1990 and 1994
Past chairman, National Governors' Association, Republican Governors Association
and Education Commission of the States
GOV. TOMMY G. Thompson was born
and raised in the small, central Wisconsin town of Elroy. His father ran
a gas station and general store in that town of 1,500. Thompson's first
job-at age six-was sorting and polishing eggs in his father's store. His
mother was a school teacher.
Thompson toppled a long-time incumbent of the state Assembly
in 1966 to begin his own career in public service. He knocked on nearly
every door in a district that spanned three counties to beat the man who
had represented the area for almost 20 years. He was elected assistant
Assembly minority leader in 1973 and Assembly minority leader in 1981.
He practiced law during the majority of his time in the legislature.
Thompson was first elected governor in 1986, surprising
the political experts by defeating the incumbent Democratic governor and
receiving 53 percent of the vote. Gov. Thompson was reelected in 1990,
garnering 58 percent of the vote. The governor in 1994 became the first
in Wisconsin's history elected to a third, four-year term with almost 68
percent of the vote.
Since the day he took office, Gov. Thompson has pursued
an ambitious and innovative agenda focused on five main policy areas: the
economy, ending welfare, education reform, the environment and crime.
Wisconsin's economy was in poor shape when Gov. Thompson took office over
a decade ago. It was so bad that state business leaders placed an ad in
the Wall Street Journal warning other businesses to stay out of Wisconsin.
The governor went to work immediately to turn around the
state's economy. He cut state income tax rates, eliminated the inheritance
tax and phased out the gift tax. He retained an 60 percent exclusion on
capital gains, making Wisconsin the only state to do so after it was eliminated
at the federal level. He has vetoed more than $600 million in legislative
Gov. Thompson's tenacious economic development efforts
have created nearly 600,000 jobs during the last 10 years.
Gov. Thompson in 1995 cut Wisconsin property taxes by
$1.2 billion-the largest tax cut in state history-without raising other
general taxes. Wisconsin is the only state known to have accomplished such
a difficult feat.
Gov. Thompson's tenacious econmic development efforts
have created nearly 600,000 new jobs in the last 10 years, including more
manufacturing jobs than any state in the nation. There are more people
at work today in Wisconsin than at any time in the state's history.
The unemployment rate in Wisconsin has remained below
the national average for eight and one-half years, including a 30-year
low in the annual rate of 3.5 percent in 1996. Wisconsin's capitol city,
Madison, has the lowest unemployment rate in the United States.
A recent study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
shows that the state's economy will continue to be among the most powerful
in the country, creating 50,000 new manufacturing jobs each of the next
three years. The same study ranked Gov. Thompson as the No. 1 reason why
Wisconsin's economy is as strong as it is today.
For more information about Wisconsin's job opportunities:
Department of Employment Relations, Department of Workforce Development.
Gov. Thompson earlier this year ended welfare reform in
Wisconsin when he signed into law his landmark "Wisconsin Works," or W-2,
program. W-2 replaces the current welfare entitlement system with one that
requires participants to work, gives them the opportunity to earn wages
and to learn to increase their value to employers. Wisconsin is the first
state in the nation to end the entitlement to welfare benefits.
W-2 is the culmination of a decade-long effort by Gov.
Thompson to reform welfare that began as soon as he took office. "Learnfare,"
introduced in 1987, requires children from ages 6 to 19 to attend school.
If they do not, their families' welfare benefits are reduced. The "Parental
and Family Responsibility" program removed the disincentives in the current
system that prevent young couples from marrying and working.
Gov. Thompson has reduced Wisconsin's welfare rolls
by more than 80 percent.
The "Family Cap" does not increase benefits for
women who have additional children while they are on welfare. "Children
First" ensures that non-custodial parents meet their child support obligations.
The "Work Not Welfare" program, begun in January
1995, is the first program in the country that requires work from participants
and places a limit on how long they can receive benefits.
His work, through those and other reform initiatives,
has reduced Wisconsin's welfare rolls by more than 80 percent, which is
more than the rest of the states combined during the same period.
Gov. Thompson's chief education goal is to give
parents the tools they need to ensure their children are receiving the
best education possible.
He initiated in 1990 the first parental school choice
program in the nation, allowing low income Milwaukee families to send their
children to the private or public school of their choice. The governor
expanded the program to include religious schools,
making Wisconsin the first state to do so.
Gov. Thompson's goal is to give parents the tools
they need to ensure that their children are receiving the best education
Wisconsin was one of the first states to implement
school to work and youth apprentice programs. They are widely recognized
as among the best in the country and are used as models for programs around
the country. Wisconsin's programs make school more relevant for more than
10,000 students by providing work-based learning experiences in 19 different
Gov. Thompson's national leadership on the issue
of education reform was highlighted when he convened the 1996 National
Education Summit. The nation's governors agreed at the summit to establish
internationally competitive education standards by 1998. Business leaders
from some of America's most important companies agreed to begin asking
prospective employees for their high school transcripts and diplomas. They
also agreed to base their business location decisions in part on the commitment
of states and communities to enforcing high academic standards.
For more information about Wisconsin's educational
system: Educational Communications Board.
Wisconsin is the model for successfully balancing
the preservation of the environment with strong, sustained economic growth.
Industrial pollution in Wisconsin has been cut by 26 percent during the
same period in which the number of businesses has grown 30 percent and
600,000 new jobs have been created.
Gov. Thompson has purchased nearly 160,000 acres
of land for preservation, more than any governor in the state's history.
He created the $250 million Stewardship Fund to purchase additional, environmentally
sensitive land and to restore important wildlife habitat. The
governor created the state's nationally recognized Clean Water Fund from
which $2 billion has been spent to help local communities meet their wastewater
Industrial pollution has been cut by 26 percent
in Wisconsin during the same period in which the number of businesses has
grown by 30 percent.
The governor last year reintroduced elk to northern
Wisconsin. They became extinct in the state at the turn of the century.
He also has reintroduced wolves to the state and has worked to restore
a bald eagle population that was itself near extinction only several years
For more information about Wisconsin's environment:
Department of Natural Resources, Public Service Commission.
Wisconsin is one of the safest states in the country
because of Gov. Thompson's dedicated efforts to fight crime in the state.
The six safest cities in the country, according to the FBI, are all in
Gov. Thompson's milestone sexual predator law allows
the state to civilly commit criminals that still pose a danger to society
after they have completed their prison terms. He eliminated mandatory parole,
making it harder for violent criminals to be paroled. The governor sought
and signed legislation creating a "life means life" law, allowing judges
to sentence murderers to prison without the possibility of parole.
Wisconsin is one of the safest states in the country
because of Gov. Thompson's dedicated efforts to fight crime.
Gov. Thompson rewrote Wisconsin's juvenile code
to make young criminals more accountable for their actions. Juvenile murderers
as young as 10 may now be tried as adults in Wisconsin. The age of delinquency
was similarly lowered to from 12 to 10. The age at which a young person
can be waived into adult court was lowered from 16 to 15. The governor
also lowered the age of majority from 18 to 17.
The governor has doubled the state's prison capacity-adding
more than 1,200 beds-to ensure that convicts stay off the streets and away
from Wisconsin families. Gov. Thompson signed legislation this spring authorizing
the construction of a super maximum security or "Super Max" prison. When
this plain, stark and austere facility is completed, it is where Wisconsin's
most vicious criminals and most unruly convicts will be sent.
For more information about Wisconsin's prison system:
Department of Corrections.
Gov. Thompson has received numerous awards for his
public service, including the Anti-Defamation League's Distinguished Public
Service Award, the American Legislative Council's Thomas Jefferson Award,
City and State magazine's Most Valuable Public Official and the Free Congress
Foundation's "Governance" Award.
The governor has served as chairman of the National
Governors' Association, the Republican Governors Association, the Education
Commission of the States, the Midwestern Governor's Conference and the
Council of Great Lakes Governors.
Gov. Thompson is a member of St. Patrick's Catholic
Church in Elroy. Thompson is an avid sportsman and enjoys both hunting
and fishing. He also likes to downhill and water ski and jog.
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