Evaluation of Washington state website

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Access.WA.gov is the website for the state of Washington.

Website evaluation

Budget P
Usability P
Legislative P
Executive P
Audits P
Contracts P
Lobbying P
Public records
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

In 2011 Washington earned a Sunny Awards for having a perfect website transparency score.

This website was reviewed on March 12, 2013.

The good

  • Budget (7/10 pts)
    • Budgets are posted.[1] Proposed budgets and enacted budgets are available.
    • Appropriations bills, hearing dates and agendas are posted online.[2]
    • The state checkbook and other resources are available.[3]
    • Annual financial reports (audits) are posted.[4]
    • Spending and tax revenue data is posted, including charts and graphs showing trends.[5]
    • Tax information available.[6]
  • Usability (8/10 pts)
    • There is an internal search function. The site is easy to navigate, information was easy to find quickly.
  • Executive (8/10 pts)
    • Elected officials are listed with contact information.[7]
    • Agencies are listed with contact information.[8]
    • State employee salaries are posted.[9]
  • Legislative (8/10 pts)
    • Rosters for both Houses are available. Include contact information, committee assignments, voting record, party affiliation.[10]
    • State employee salaries are posted.[11]
  • Ethics (10/10 pts)
    • Ethics information is available.[12]
    • Ethics rules and policies are posted.[13]
    • Instructions for submitting a complaint are included.
    • The results of investigations are posted.[14]
  • Audits (6/10 pts)
    • Audits are posted.[15]
    • Annual financial reports (audits) are posted.[4]
  • Contracts (8/10 pts)
    • Contracts are posted in a searchable database.[16]
  • Lobbying (6/10 pts)
    • Lobbyist lists and reports are posted in a searchable database.[17] Reports are also available on Taxpayer-funded lobbying, a.k.a. public agency lobbying.[18]
  • Compensation (10/10 pts)
    • State employee salaries are posted.[20]

The bad

  • None.

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website an "B" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 85 out of 100.[21]

The scorecard that U.S. PIRG uses has 13 items and focuses on a separate state website that is searchable at the checkbook level. Sunshine Review, on the other hand, focuses on the availability of separate spending-related items; they do not need to be in a central database.

Item Possible points Notes
Checkbook-level website 30 Detailed expenditure information, including individual payments made to vendors.
Search by vendor 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by contractor or vendor name.
Search by keyword of activity 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by type of service or item purchased, category, or government fund.
Search by agency or departments 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by branch of government.
Contract or summary information 10 A copy of the contract or detailed summary information is included for the expenditures.
Historical expenditures 5 Checkbook-level expenditure data from previous fiscal years.
Grants and economic development incentives information 10 Awardee-specific grants and/or economic development incentives are included in the checkbook tool or elsewhere with specific award amounts.
Downloadable 3 Information can be downloaded for data analysis.
Tax expenditure reports 10 The state's tax expenditure report is linked on the website.
Off-budget agencies 2 Expenditures from quasi-public agencies are included on the website.
City and county budgets 2 Financial information for some local governments is accessible.
ARRA Funding 2 A link is provided to the state's website that tracks funding related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Feedback 2 Website users are capable and encouraged to give feedback about the site.

There are several similarities between the checklists. For both checklists, the searchability of information factors in to how usability is rated. Both checklists have an item relating to contracts, tax information, and the budget. The U.S. PIRG requires information for quasi public entities; Sunshine Review requires information on lobbying, which includes quasi public entities' lobbying activity.

Unlike the Sunshine Review checklist with each check worth one point, different items on the U.S. PIRG checklist merit more or fewer points, depending on the item.

State Integrity Investigation

The 2012 State Integrity Investigation graded state ethics laws according to an "Integrity Index." The index was created by researching 330 "Integrity Indicators" across 14 categories of state government. The report assigned grades based on what laws are on the books, and whether or not they were effectively enforced. The report was a project of The Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.[22]

Washington received an overall grade of B-, or 83%. It ranked 3 out of the 50 states.[23]

Category Grade
Public Access to Information B-
Political Financing C+
Executive Accountability B-
Legislative Accountability B+
Judicial Accountability C+
State Budget Processes B+
State Civil Service Management C-
Procurement C
Internal Auditing A
Lobbying Disclosure A
State Pension Fund Management C-
Ethics Enforcement Agencies B-
State Insurance Commissions B+
Redistricting A

Transparency Legislation


Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Center for Government Reform Washington Policy Center Policy briefs on transparency in Washington. 2011 http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/research/open-government/new
Transparency in Government Foundation Evergreen Foundation Shines more light on the spending practices of state and local governments, higher education, property taxes and K-12 education. 2008 https://web.archive.org/web/2/http://www.effwa.org/main/page.php?number=525
Washington Coalition for Open Government Washington Coalition for Open Government Citizen resources 2011 http://www.washingtoncog.org/
Contact Search State-General Administration Government Contracts 2011 http://www.ga.wa.gov/Purchase/contracts.htm (dead link)
Washington State Fiscal Information State Budget, spending, revenue, staff, vendor checkbook, performance, contracts, and state employee salaries. 2011 http://fiscal.wa.gov/
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=WA


State and Local Employees

According to 2008 Census data, the state of Washington and local governments in the state employed a total of 427,078 people.[24] Of those employees, 287,439 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $1,403,475,485 per month and 139,639 were part-time employees paid $212,257,148 per month.[24] More than 49% of those employees, or 212,659 employees, were in education or higher education.[24]

The Office of Financial Management released its 2011 report showing the total gross earnings for 2010. It encompasses public employees paid through the state’s or institution of higher education’s payroll system, including base pay and any additional compensation or premiums such as overtime, callback, standby or assignment pay.[25]

State Employee Benefits

State of Washington employees receive many benefits in addition to their salary.


Employees earn 12-22 days of paid vacation per year depending on the length of employment.[26]

Paid Holidays

Full-time employees are entitled to ten paid holidays, and one personal holiday if the employee is scheduled to be, or has been, continuously employed by the State of Washington for at least four months.[26] The paid holidays are:[27]

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • President's Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Veteran's Day
  • Thanksgiving Day and the day after Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Day

Sick Leave

Full-time employees earn one day of sick leave each month. Part-time employees earn sick leave on a pro rata basis.[26]

Bereavement Leave

Non-represented classified employees are entitled to 3 days of paid bereavement leave when a family pr household member dies.[26]

Civil Leave

Employees are allowed leave with pay for jury duty or to perform other civil duties.

Military Leave

Military training leave with pay is permitted to a maximum of 21 work days in any one year.


Health, Vision & Dental

Currently state employees pay 12% and the state pays 88% of their health care premiums, with the average premium for employees costing $112 per month.[28] State employees choose among eight different health insurance plans.[29] Both managed managed care plans or preferred provider plans.[29] Dental and vision insurance is provided to employees and premiums are fully paid by the State.[30]


Eligible employees are provided with a $25,000 basic term life insurance and basic $5,000 coverage for Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D) insurance.[31] Additional supplemental insurance and coverage for dependents is available to employees.[30]

Long Term Disability

Eligible employees receive basic Long Term Disability (LTD) coverage. Employees may choose to purchase additional LTD coverage which provides up to sixty percent of their monthly salary (following a waiting period selected by the employee).


Other coverage for auto, boat, home, and renter insurance is available through payroll deduction. Long term care insurance is also available.[30]


Most state employees are members of the Washington Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS).[32] As of June 2009, PERS had 302,903 active members (state employees currently working and contributing to the plans), 130,033 annuitants (retirees, beneficiaries and others receiving monthly payments), and 197,802 inactive members (individuals who have left state employment; are not yet receiving payments).[32]

Gregoire's pension cuts

Governor Chris Gregoire wanted to cut certain pension benefits to save the state $11 billion over the next 25 years.[33] The changes included cutting pay increases for Plan 1 members and increasing the retirement age for new members.[33]

Contribution Rates

The state contributes 5.31% of the employee's salary.[34]

Funding Levels

The state's pension liabilities can be calculated in a variety of ways, which yield different numbers. Below are the numbers as calculated by to the Pew Center on the States,[35] the American Enterprise Institute[36] and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.[37]

In Thousands
PEW (2008) AEI (2008) Kellogg (2009)
($179,100) $51,807,902 $42,900,000

Other information from the Pew Center on the States Feb. 2010 publication "The Trillion Dollar Gap":

State Pension Funding Levels 2008 (figures are in thousands)[38]
Latest liability Latest unfunded liability Annual required contribution Latest actual contribution
$54,322,900 $-179,100 $1,545,600 $967,900

Public Records

The Washington Public Records Act (PRA) is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Washington.

The introduction to the statute explains the reason for the PRA: "The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created."[39]

The Washington Open Public Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: Washington FOIA procedures.

External links


  1. WA.gov, "Budgets," accessed January 26, 2012
  2. Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government
  3. Open Checkbook
  4. 4.0 4.1 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
  5. State & Local Government Revenue Sources
  6. WA.gov, "Department of Revenue," accessed January 26, 2012
  7. WA.gov, "Elected Officials," accessed January 26, 2012
  8. WA.gov, "Agencies," accessed January 26, 2012
  9. Open Checkbook - Salaries
  10. Washington Legislature Rosters
  11. Open Checkbook - Salaries
  12. WA.gov, "Ethics," accessed January 26, 2012
  13. Laws and Rules
  14. Results of Enforcement
  15. WA.gov, "Financial & Audit Reports," accessed January 26, 2012
  16. WA.gov, "Contracts," accessed January 26, 2012 (dead link)
  17. WA.gov, "Lobbyist Information," accessed January 26, 2012
  18. WA.gov, "Public Agency Lobbying," accessed January 26, 2012
  19. WA.gov, "Obtaining Public Records," accessed January 26, 2012
  20. Open Checkbook - Salaries
  21. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  22. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  23. Washington Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 2008 Washington Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  25. Washington Policy Center, OFM releases state employee salary details, Aug. 10, 2011
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Vacation, Leave and Holidays
  27. Holiday Schedule
  28. The Seattle Times "State budget likely to go from bad to much worse" Sept. 11, 2010
  29. 29.0 29.1 Insurance Plans
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Benefits Overview
  31. Public Employees Benefits Board Life Insurance
  32. 32.0 32.1 Washington State Department of Retirement Systems Quick Facts visited Dec. 2, 2010
  33. 33.0 33.1 Seattle Times, Gregoire wants to cut some public pension benefits, double-dip loophole, Dec. 13, 2010
  34. Contribution Rates
  35. "State Pensions and Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Trillion Dollar Gap,” Pew Center on the States," accessed January 4, 2011
  36. Biggs, Andrew, “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits,” AEI Outlook Series, no. 1 (2010)
  37. Novy-Marx, Robert and Joshua Rauh, 2010, "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth," Journal of Finance (forthcoming)
  38. Pew Center on the States "The Trillion Dollar Gap" Feb. 2010
  39. Revised Code of Washington 42.56.030