Schmudget Blog

Washington State Lagging in Key Measures of Progress

Progress Index spotlights need for greater investment in schools, health care, and other foundations of a thriving economy


The foundations required for a strong economy in Washington state are cracking. On more than half of almost 100 measures of progress – from employment opportunities for our residents to the education of future generations – we are stalled or going backward. If our state is to reverse this trend, our government must invest more widely in the programs and services that promote a thriving economy and shared prosperity among all our residents. Those are the primary findings of our newly released Progress Index.

PI Figure 1 for blogThe Index shows how budget and policy decisions impact the lives and well-being of Washingtonians – decisions that will be highlighted as the state House and Senate release their proposed budgets in the coming weeks. 

The Index further shows that our state’s funding priorities have gotten out of whack in recent decades, largely because of a broken revenue system and significant cuts to essential public programs and services. Since 2008, state investments have fallen in several critical areas, including:

  • Education Spending on education has declined by 14 percent ($1.3 billion) and has affected the entire education system – from early learning through higher education. Throughout this time, there has been stalled progress on preparedness for kindergarten and preschool enrollment; a persistent achievement gap for students of color that’s evident by the third grade; and the second-largest tuition increase in the nation at four-year colleges.
  • Economic securitySpending on programs that help Washingtonians meet basic needs has declined by 58 percent ($281 million). During the same time period, the share of people who do not have enough income to adequately provide for their families has risen to nearly one-third of all Washingtonians. And an increased number of school children have become homeless.

PI Figure 2 for blogThese cuts hurt all Washingtonians, and especially people of color, who do not have equal access to opportunity. Their measures of progress in many critical areas trail those of their peers, which is detrimental to our collective future.

Yet there are areas, like our increased use of renewable energy and the uptick in people earning community college degrees, where our state is making steady improvement – and it can continue to do so if we invest wisely. The Progress Index offers many strategies that policymakers can adopt to ensure that they are supporting overall progress in our state. These strategies include: expanding successful programs like the State Need Grant and College Bound Scholarship program; adopting the proposed cap-and-trade system to reduce pollution and increase revenue; and requiring companies that receive tax breaks to meet minimum standards for state job creation.

The extensive data and analysis presented in the Progress Index can be used to inform policymakers’ decisions as they craft the budget. The Index can also shape initiatives to help communities secure the resources they need to thrive. Ultimately, it can be a map of where we are as a state and it can help us understand how our state budget can better support the well-being of our families, children, businesses, and communities. 

The goal? For Washington state to be a place where progress is a given for every single one of us.

PI cover thumbnail

Read the full Progress Index:  

Read the individual sections from the index:
Economic security  2. Education
Healthy people & environment 
4. Community development & trust  
5. Good jobs 6. Revenue

In the coming weeks, the Budget & Policy Center will also release a series of schmudget blog posts highlighting and analyzing the findings from each section of the Progress Index. 

Media contacts: 

Leigh Sims, Team Soapbox Communications, 206-528-2550, ext. 7

Melinda Young-Flynn, Washington State Budget & Policy Center, 206-262-0973, ext. 223

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