Walker, GOP leadership announce new UW center to honor former Gov. Tommy Thompson

MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker and Republican leaders in the Wisconsin Legislature on Tuesday, May 23rd announced plans to create a new public policy center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in honor of former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

The GOP proposal, which the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee will consider later in the day, would cost taxpayers $3 million over two years, including $500,000 that would be available to other UW System schools to bring speakers to their respective campuses.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he expected the center to "offset" left-wing groups on the UW-Madison campus, though he said the center would have no agenda.

"It’s not a conservative think tank," Vos told reporters. "I mean, hopefully, it will be able to offset some of the liberal thinking so we at least have somebody who’s bipartisan."

UW-Madison already has a public policy center, the La Follette School of Public Affairs. Vos said the school was focused on training public policy research, while the new center named for Thompson would be focused on ideas and discussion of "the controversial subjects of the day."

The GOP-backed plan would establish a board that would have oversight over the center, including the hiring of a director.

Despite calling a news conference to announce the Thompson center, Walker and top Republicans did not take questions about that or other topics. Vos later took questions from reporters in an adjacent room only about the Thompson center.

Democrats criticized the announcement.

"Wisconsin GOP announces Tommy Thompson Institute for Safe Spaces at UW," tweeted state Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh. "Vos, Fitz + Bradley Foundation + your tax $."