- Most Free
- Least Free
- #40 Overall
- #41 Economic
- #22 Personal
- Change in overall freedom, 2007–2009:
- Change in overall freedom ranking since 2007:
- Net domestic migration, 2000–2009 (% of 2000 population):
- Governor, 2011:
- Chris Gregoire (D)
- Legislature, 2011:
- House 42R/55D, Senate 22R/27D
Washington was among the states that improved the most in overall freedom and consequently moved up five spots in the rankings. Unfortunately for denizens of that state, it had—and still has—a long way to go. Washington is still among the 10 least-free states. Indeed, it only barely cracks the top half of states in personal freedom. Spending is a bit higher than average, but taxes are slightly lower—a recipe for gov- ernment debt, which Washington has in abundance. Government employment is also too high. Land-use planning is fairly centralized. Eminent-domain legislation has been enacted but reforms need to go further. Labor and health-insurance laws are poor. Washington has the highest minimum wage in the country. It also has adjusted community rating and has enacted a host of new health-insurance coverage mandates. The state liability system is a bit above average. For a liberal state, gun laws remain quite reasonable. Alcohol is tightly controlled, with taxes on spirits the highest in the country by far (effectively $22.33 per gallon!). However, beer and wine taxes are considerably lower than average. Cigarette taxes are high overall and the highest in the West; smoking bans are extensive. Marijuana laws are a bit better than average, with a relatively humane (but still too high, at five years) maximum prison term for single offenses. Making high-level possession and low-level cultivation misdemeanors and low-level possession a civil offense would help further. Motorist freedoms are constrained and now include a ban on handheld cell phones. However, Washington does not authorize sobriety checkpoints. Gambling is restricted. Educational regulation is absurdly tight, with private schools needing state approval and under certain conditions, teacher licensing, and homeschoolers needing to meet teacher qualifications, annual standardized testing, and extensive recordkeeping rules, along with other requirements. Washington’s asset-forfeiture laws are among the worst in the country and require reform. However, the state performs quite well on victimless-crime arrests and drug-law enforcement.
- Reduce spending consistent with the state’s relatively decent tax-burden levels, starting with reducing government employment and spending on natural resources (mostly at the state government level) and sewerage (at the local government level), which is particularly far above national norms.
- Enact further-reaching eminent-domain reform.
- Reduce centralized land-use planning by repealing or amending the Growth Management Act and Shoreline Management Act.
State Freedom Calculator
You know how free your state is today, but how free could it be in the future? Here are four policies from each area of the index--fiscal, regulatory, and paternalist--that allow you to play policy maker. Select from the options below and observe as your state's rankings in economic, personal, and overall freedom will be recalculated in real time and your state's ranking will rise or fall depending on your choices.