Washington state government spending increased 169% from 1991 to 2023


The state’s total spending was $12.21 billion in 1991 and increased to $73.59 billion in 2023. When adjusted for inflation, that accounts for a 169% increase.

That's according to budget documents provided online by the state.

The migration of people to Washington over the past 32 years has triggered a dramatic increase in the number of state workers.

In 2023, Washington employed 125,892 full-time positions, a 49% increase in the number of workers since 1991. The state had 84,563 full-time positions in 1991. That’s kept in line with the state population which has jumped 59% over that time span to 7.95 million people.

Part of the increase in spending is due to the amount of money municipalities across the country received from the federal government due to the pandemic. For Washington, total revenues increased from $50.9 billion in the pre-pandemic 2019 to $74.8 billion in 2023. When adjusted for inflation, that is a 23% increase in total revenues over that four-year period.

“The state of Washington, like most other states, has seen an increase in spending,” said Christine Kuglin, director of Truth in Accounting.” Much of this is due to the COVID pandemic and population shifts. However, some is also attributable to overpayments in unemployment benefits that occurred during COVID. This and other fraudulent activities cost taxpayers a lot of money.”

The state of Washington’s Employment Security Department estimated that fraudulent unemployment claims involving COVID-19 pandemic funds reached $647 million as of September 2023.