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Budget FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Budget and Budget Process

The budgeting process uses many terms that might not be familiar to people outside of the Legislature. The information below seeks to use non-legislative language to answer many commonly asked questions. For a more technical and detailed definition of terms, please see the Site Glossary. If you have other questions you feel would be helpful to address here, please use the contact information on the Contact Us page.

A budget is a spending plan for state government. It authorizes state agencies to spend (up to) a certain amount by making appropriations covering a two-year period (biennium).

Washington operates on a two-year budget cycle, known as a fiscal biennium, lasting from July 1 of an odd-numbered year until June 30 of the following odd-numbered year. For example, the 2021-2023 fiscal biennium begins July 1, 2021, and ends June 30, 2023. The following biennium begins July 1, 2023, and ends June 30, 2025. Biennial budgets refer to the money budgeted for state government during one of those two-year budget periods. The Legislature develops biennial budgets once every two years, in odd-numbered years.

A supplemental budget makes adjustments to biennial budgets. Biennial budgets plus supplemental budgets are called revised budgets. Ordinarily, supplemental budgets are prepared every year. In the interactive data reports for each of the supplemental budgets, you may view data showing only supplemental changes or total revised budgets.

Separate biennial and supplemental budgets are prepared for each budget type: operating; capital; and transportation.

A fiscal unit containing accounts designated for specific purposes within state government. A unique three-character alpha-numeric code is used to designate each fund. See the Office of Financial Management Fund Reference Manual for details.

A rollup fund is a group of specific funds. Different rollup funds may include some of the same specific funds.

In 2012, the Legislature enacted a law requiring the state operating budget to be balanced for the current two-year fiscal period. The law also requires the projected state operating budget to be balanced for the following two-year period, based on current estimates for state revenues and the projected cost of maintaining the current level of state programs and services. Together, these two requirements are often referred to as the "Budget Outlook" or the "Four-Year Balanced Budget."

Near General Fund-Outlook (NGF-O) is a rollup fund also known as Funds Subject to the Outlook (see the Site Glossary for a list of funds included in it). The amount for NGF-O is typically the figure noted when references are made to the amount of the two-year operating budget. Following supplemental changes made in the 2022 session, the 2021-23 NGF-O budgeted amount was $64.1 billion.

Total Budgeted includes the NGF-O amount and funds from other sources, including other state funds, federal funds, local funds, and non-appropriated funds. Following supplemental changes made in the 2022 session, the 2021-23 Total Budgeted amount for the Omnibus Operating Budget was $130.9 billion.

A proviso refers to language in a budget that provides funds for a specific purpose. Provisos in budget bills use the term, "provided solely for" followed by the specific purpose of the proviso.