Lawmaking can be surprisingly complicated. A seemingly small change in one state statute can have unintended consequences elsewhere. Policy development can get particularly complicated when it involves the multifaceted relationship between state and local governments.

The Local Government Fiscal Note Program was created to help elected leaders better understand the fiscal impacts proposed state legislation could have on on counties, cities, and most special purpose districts.

Our experienced team of analysts researches almost any legislative issue that could change local government revenues or expenditures. We produce the largest number of fiscal notes of any state agency. This is the Local Government Fiscal Note Program’s 38th year of operation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our notes are part of the legislative record for proposed bills, typically available to legislators and the public prior to hearings and updated as bills are modified. Local government fiscal notes are part of a larger fiscal note packet sent to the policy and appropriations committees of each house and available to members of the public online (go here).
No. We cover counties, cities, and most special purpose districts. Our notes include prosecution and defense costs but not other court-related costs, which are addressed by the Administrative Office of the Courts. School districts are covered by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. We only address costs that spill over to other local jurisdictions, such as for elections.
We are charged with addressing almost any issue that could impact local governments, such as taxes, criminal justice, economic development, land use, social services, natural resources, government operations, elections, and public works. That’s why we may very well possess the broadest policy bandwidth of any research shop in state government outside of the Office of Financial Management.
Potential fiscal impacts of legislation are determined through surveys, data models, review of published reports and online databases, and direct consultation with state and local government officials. Fiscal note analysts also work closely with local government associations (see right sidebar).
Washington’s local government fiscal note process was established in 1977 through Chapter 43.132 RCW. Local government fiscal notes provide the Legislature with the information it needs to uphold Chapter 43.135.060 RCW. This statute requires the state to mitigate the impact of legislation that requires local governments to create or expand services if these costs are not reimbursed through specific state appropriations or increases in state distributions of revenue to local government enacted after January 1, 1998.
Local government fiscal notes are similar in format. However, state agency notes typically focus primarily on their own operations. In contrast, our focus is entirely external: We collect and objectively analyze data from literally hundreds of local jurisdictions. This is why state statute gives us five days to respond to fiscal note requests from the Office of Financial Management, while the statutory deadline for agency notes is three days.

Yes. We are one of 42 similar programs across the United States.