Washington State Employee Salaries

Frequently Asked Questions


OFM FAQ: The following questions and answers are compiled from FAQ documents provided by the Office of Financial Management: For 2011 Data, questions and answers were published on the Office of Financial Management Personnel Detail Report website, in this PDF document. The updated version for 2012 Data was published on the Washington State Fiscal Information Website, in this PDF document.

  • Q: What information is included in the database?

    A: It provides annual earnings for most employees who worked for the state since Jan.1, 2010 and earned more than $100 in a position. The database lists total calendar year earnings for each employee as of the date the information was extracted. Any adjustments to employee pay after this extract date are not reflected. It does NOT list annual base salary information.

  • Q: Why can’t I find information about some individuals working in state government? Why does the earnings information for some employees seem incomplete?

    A: The database does not include anyone new to state government since Jan. 1, 2012. However, it does include individuals who were employed at any time after Jan. 1, 2010, but have since retired or separated from state service. Thus, for some individuals, the database reflects earnings for only a portion of the year. The database does not include anyone who earned less than $100 during a calendar year.

  • (2012-2014 Data FAQ) Q: What happened to the state Personnel Detail Report?

    A: The database replaces what was previously known as the state Personnel Detail Report. Prior to 2011, the Personnel Detail Report was compiled by gathering data from a “snapshot” of a single pay period from January, and showed only an employee’s base pay (salary, hourly wage or contract payment). That information was published biennially by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) as online PDF and text files.

    Under the system adopted in 2011, the database shows total gross earnings paid through the state’s or institution of higher education’s payroll systems, including base pay and any additional compensation or premiums such as overtime, callback, standby or assignment pay. OFM works with the Department of Enterprise Services and higher education institutions to collect the data. The data is then provided to the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program (LEAP) for posting in a searchable database on the state’s transparency website (fiscal.wa.gov).

  • (2011 Data FAQ) Q: What is different about the 2011 Personnel Detail Report?

    A: This is significant: In the past, the report was compiled by gathering data from a “snapshot” of a single pay period from January, and it showed only an employee’s base pay (salary, hourly wage or contract payment). The 2011 report shows total gross earnings for 2010 paid through the state’s or institution of higher education’s payroll system, which is base pay and any additional compensation or premiums such as overtime, callback, standby or assignment pay.

    Unlike the 2009 report, the 2011 report does not include an employee count for each agency.

  • Q: Does the report show sources of income that aren’t paid by the state, such as funding from a federal program, a research grant or from private donors, for instance?

    A: Yes, salaries are reported regardless of the budgeted funding source(s) for the employee’s position, as reported by the agency or institution.

  • Q: Why are some state employees paid with non-state money? Is it possible to be a state employee and not be paid with any state funds?

    A: Yes, it’s possible. Some state programs are funded by other than state funds. For example, federally funded state programs may include funding for a state employee’s salary, and many employees at institutions of higher education are paid from grants, contracts, self-sustaining programs or other non-state sources of funds.

  • Q: Does the report include student employees at the colleges and universities?

    A: Student employment information at higher education institutions is protected by federal regulation and is not public information. However, non-University of Washington student nursing technicians at the UW medical centers and student interns at the Washington State Historical Society are not in that category and so are included in the report. Legislative interns are also included, but legislative pages are not.

  • Q: How is this information gathered?

    A: The Office of Financial Management (OFM) worked with the Department of Personnel and higher education institutions to collect data.

  • Q: Why is this report published?

    A: OFM publishes the report as a public service as we receive so many requests for this data. Contrary to popular belief, the publication of the report is not required by law.

  • Q: Will the database be updated annually?

    A: The current plan is to update the database annually.

  • Q: How are salaries determined for state employees?

    A: Various laws and rules govern salaries for state employees depending on the position, whether the position is classified or exempt, and whether the position is represented by a union. Salary bands or ranges are typically established or modified though a public meeting process and require adoption by the director of the Department of Personnel.

    For employees represented by a union in collective bargaining, salary rates are agreed to in contract. The initial salaries for individual employees within a salary band or range are determined by hiring authorities. Effective July 2011, base salaries were reduced by 3 percent for most employees of the executive, legislative and judicial branches whose full-time monthly salary is $2,500 or greater. There are limited exceptions.

    For more information on the setting of salaries of state employees, visit the website of the state Department of Personnel.

    Most of the exemptions from civil service laws can be found in RCW 41.06.070 through 41.06.098. Examples of exempt employees are the officers of the Washington State Patrol and Assistant Attorneys General. There are also positions in many state agencies and institutions of higher education that are exempt from state civil service laws. For information on exempt employee salaries, contact the individual agency or institution of higher education.

  • Q: How are salaries set for elected officials?

    A: The Washington Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials determines the salaries for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Commissioner of Public Lands, Insurance Commissioner, members of the Legislature, justices of the Supreme Court, and judges of the Court of Appeals and Superior and District courts.

  • Q: Why are many of the highest salaries paid to State Investment Board staff?

    A: The Washington State Investment Board salaries are based on a biennial salary survey of other pension funds and set within a range of the average of other funds. This salary-setting method is set in state law and designed to ensure the WSIB can attract and retain investment professionals. The survey methods and results are reviewed by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee and others. This review includes a 60-day public comment period.

    All WSIB expenses, including salaries, are paid out of dedicated funds netted from investment earnings. The agency participates in a benchmarking service that compares its costs to 150 funds and ranks as a low-cost, high value-added provider of investment management services. For more information about WSIB salaries, visit: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=43.33A.100.

  • Q: Why are so many University of Washington employees paid so highly?

    A: The UW competes for exceptionally talented people with advanced degrees of specialization in a very competitive international marketplace, as do the other public institutions of higher education. Many of the highest-paid employees at the UW, for example, are in high-demand, high-paying fields such as medicine, computer science, genome sciences and other fields in which the market determines the salary scale. As one of the nation’s preeminent research institutions, it is essential that the university attract and retain people at the top of their fields. In these disciplines, salaries tend to be higher than those in other areas of state government. Salaries for the vast majority of UW employees in such fields as medicine and research are not from state taxpayer dollars or tuition.

  • Q: Are any of the salaries of the University of Washington athletic coaches paid for by taxpayers?

    A: No state taxpayer dollars of any kind are used to fund the salaries of any UW athletic department employees, including all the coaches. The UW’s Intercollegiate Athletic Department is responsible for generating all the revenue it needs to operate its programs and maintain its facilities. There are no general fund tax dollars or any other tax dollars supporting the program. Nor are there any other institutional funds going to the program. And unlike many universities, there are no student fees or tuition dollars going to support athletics. All the department’s revenue comes from ticket and gate receipts, television and radio contracts, and philanthropic gifts. The only state contributions are a limited number of legislatively authorized tuition waivers granted years ago to help the state’s colleges and universities achieve gender equity in their athletic programs.

  • Q: What about athletic department salaries at Washington State University?

    A: No state funds are used to pay salaries for any WSU athletic department employees.

  • Q: How do I obtain a print copy of the report?

    A: The report is only available online. To save money and resources, we do not print it.

  • Q: What if I don’t want my salary disclosed?

    A: Under RCW 42.56.210, salaries of state employees are public information. An exception is made in the case of victims of domestic violence. The database also excludes the names of certain employees whose jobs require confidentiality. Please contact Ralph Thomas (ralph.thomas@ofm.wa.gov) for more information.

  • Q: If my salary information is incorrect, how do I get it corrected?

    A: Please report incorrect salaries to your human resource or payroll office. Due to resource restrictions, only significant disparities will be corrected in the online report

  • Q: Who do I contact if I have questions about the database?

    A: Please contact Ralph Thomas (ralph.thomas@ofm.wa.gov) for more information. (Our school salaries database site is sourced differently: for questions on school salary data, please visit the FAQ pertinent to that section.)

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Credits: Mike Tigas
Data: Office of Financial Management 2011 Personnel Detail Report (some data processing by Washington Policy Center); OFM 2012 Salary Data
More Information: view the FAQ

Salaries for state employees are considered “public record,” in accordance with Washington State’s Public Records act (under RCW 42.56.210). An exception is made in the case of victims of domestic violence. Please contact Ralph Thomas, OFM Communications Director for more information.