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Budget Basics

Help Understanding the Budget

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

While the basic definition of a state budget may be straightforward, the Washington State budgeting process has many complex elements and specific language that can be difficult for people to understand unless they have extensive experience with it. The goal of the Budget Basics section of this website is to explain the budgeting process in a way that helps people from outside the process find and understand the information they need. To help with that understanding, this section includes the resources below.

Budget Types. This page provides introductory information about the types of budgets in Washington State, links, and tips for how to find more detailed information, if desired.

Budget Process. This page provides a high-level view of the budgeting process, the steps agencies, offices, and the Legislature make, and how the steps are related. This will include links and references to more detailed information.

Budget FAQ. This page covers direct answers to questions that might not be fully addressed in other sections of this website.

Glossary. The glossary is located in another part of this website and includes definitions to terms used in the budgeting process and on the fiscal.wa.gov website.

Citizen's Guide to the Operating Budget (PDF). This 17-page document, as stated in the introduction of the document, "is offered as a resource for citizens, members of the Senate, their staff, and other interested persons to provide a clear and simple overview of the state budget and state revenues. It describes the three basic state budgets and their interrelationships, the sources of revenue that support those budgets, how the money is spent, and how many staff the state employs."

Citizen's Guide to the Capital Budget (PDF). Similarly, this 11-page document is "offered as a resource for citizens, members of the Senate, their staff, and other interested persons to provide a clear and cogent overview of the state capital budget. It also places the capital budget in the context of other state budgets."

Citizen's Guide to K-12 Finance (PDF). This guide is 38 pages and "is offered to provide a clear and simple overview of K-12 financial issues. It provides general information on K-12 finance by answering frequently asked questions."

If there are additional pieces of information or explanations you would find helpful, please let us know using the information on the Contact Us page.