Legislative Priorities

Where transparency prevails in government

Washington State Auditor Pat McCarthy

State Auditor Pat McCarthy is dedicated to shining a brighter light on government operations for the public. Under her leadership, SAO’s vision and mission is to increase trust in government through independent and transparent audits of state and local governments, and to help these governments develop strategies to become more efficient and effective.

“Government transparency and accountability are more important than ever in these challenging times. The State Auditor’s Office is committed to providing the independent reviews and investigations the public expects.” – Pat McCarthy. Here’s more about State Auditor Pat McCarthy.

Currently Implementing

In 2021, the legislature authorized SAO to conduct compliance audits of police Use of Deadly Force Investigations (UDFI) as outlined in Chapter 319, Laws of 2021.   

Through the end of 2023, we have published 20 such audits and a capstone report summarizing our findings (see below). SAO worked to pass a 2023 bill to give auditors more complete access to criminal data solely for the purpose of these investigations (Chapter 26, Laws of 2023). 

Legislators wanting additional briefings or updates may contact our office for assistance.

High-interest Topics 

Frequently requested information about SAO work

  • Rural County Sales and Use Tax for Public Facilities Report FY 2022 (Excel, 41KB) 
    Members of the State Senate asked SAO to expand on how rural counties were using their local option sales tax designated for economic development projects. Working together with the Association of Washington Counties, SAO has implemented an annual report to give more specific and timely detail on these projects. You can find the most recent reports here on our website.
  • 2023 Special Report on Unauditable Governments (PDF)
    Local governments are required to publish their finances with the State Auditor's Office every year. Sometimes governments, typically smaller special-purpose districts such as cemetery boards, fail to make this important information public in a timely manner. These types of governments are deemed 'unauditable.'

    Working with members of the legislature (Chapter 179, Laws of 2020), SAO helped implement a system that allows County governments to withhold tax revenues for laggard local governments or, in extreme cases, assume their responsibilities and dissolve the agency. Since implementing this system, SAO has seen a 90% drop in unauditable governments. See our latest special reports on unauditable governments for more information.
  • Financial Intelligence Tool (FIT)
    The State Auditor’s Office annually collects financial information from all local governments across the state. In an effort to present this valuable information in a transparent and available manner, SAO created the Financial Intelligence Tool (FIT) through its Center for Government Innovation. FIT is a very useful tool for policymakers and staff as it displays information by individual governments and government types, and allows users to parse the information by topic, spending or even the financial health of an entity. 

Legislation of Interest

Policy topics SAO is closely following

  • HB 1934 /  SB 5838 – Establishing an artificial intelligence task force
    In the 2024 legislative session, SAO will be working with the Office of the Attorney General on their request legislation (SB 5838 / HB 1934) to establish an interagency task force to recommend policies and practices on the use of artificial intelligence and related technologies. 
  • HB 2076 – Related to addressing crimes involving human trafficking or sexual exploitation
    For the 2024 Legislative Session, SAO will work with the sponsors and jurisdictional committees to help implement this important bill. 

#Gov101 Video Series

    Legislative contact

    Scott Nelson standing in front of the galaxy of state government poster

    Scott Nelson manages legislative, policy and tribal relations for the State Auditor's Office. Scott was raised in Spokane and schooled in Tacoma. His career in government includes being a member of the original staff of Congressman Norman D. Dicks; a stint as a national consultant; then owning his own firm before coming to work for Auditor McCarthy.

    Scott Nelson, Director of Legislative and Policy Affairs scott.nelson@sao.wa.gov

    To request an appointment with Scott Nelson, please contact Julian Kinder at julian.kinder@sao.wa.gov.