Attesting to the credibility and quality of JLARC's work as reviewed and evaluated by its national peers, awards received by JLARC from the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society (NLPES) include:
2011 Impact Award — K-12 Pilot Facility Inventory, Condition & Use System
JLARC received an award from the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society (NLPES) for its 2010 K-12 Pilot Facility Inventory, Condition & Use System Study. The award recognizes the impact performance audit organizations have on legislative policy making. During the study, JLARC worked with staff from ten school districts as they provided a broad array of information about buildings they managed. JLARC staff also collected data from district staff on the time required to collect the building information, and compared condition ratings assessed by district staff to condition ratings assessed by independent consultants hired by JLARC. JLARC concluded that inventory and building condition data were feasible to collect and proposed four cost options for the Legislature to consider. The Legislature appropriated funding for one of the cost options.
2010 Notable Documents Award — 2009 Full Tax Preference Performance Reviews
The Committee received this award from the Legislative Research Librarians section of the National Conference of State Legislatures for JLARC’s publication 2009 Full Tax Preference Performance Reviews. JLARC was commended on this publication as “innovative in providing substantive information on contemporary issues of interest to legislatures.” Full tax preference reviews answer ten primary questions outlined in law, while the expedited tax preference reviews answer four questions. All tax preference performance reviews place an emphasis on whether the preference has met its public policy objectives.
2010 Impact Award — Review of Boards and Commissions
The Committee received this award for its 2008 Review of Boards and Commissions: Pre-Audit. JLARC prepared this pre-audit report on boards and commissions at the direction of the Legislature in the 2008 Supplemental Operating Budget (ESHB 2687). The legislative directive included two key parts: creating an inventory of existing boards and commissions; and providing the Legislature with alternative approaches it could use to select entities for further review. JLARC’s report provides some key legislative history regarding the general tracking and review of boards and commissions and a list of existing boards and commissions in the state. The report also identifies four potential approaches for undertaking a more systematic evaluation of certain boards and commissions. Under these approaches, the Legislature could choose to focus on those with little activity, with a high impact on state resources, that license or adjudicate, and/or that operate within a particular topic area.
2009 Excellence in Research Methods Award— Comparing Costs and Characteristics of Housing Assistance Programs
The Committee received this award for its 2009 Comparing Costs and Characteristics of Housing Assistance Programs. The 2007-2009 Biennial Operating Budget (Substitute House Bill 1128) directed JLARC to conduct an evaluation and comparison of the cost efficiency of rental housing voucher programs versus other housing projects intended to assist low-income households. To answer the Legislature’s questions, JLARC developed a model for analyzing the life-cycle cost of low-income housing developments. JLARC then compared the costs for these capital developments to the costs for vouchers for units with the same number of bedrooms in the same general locations. In an analysis that accounted for all costs and all sources of funding, JLARC found vouchers generally cost less than capital programs, but there were other factors to consider. The report recommended that funding agencies should include life-cycle cost analysis as a part of their processes for evaluating proposals for state-administered funding.
2009 Impact Award— Tax Preference Performance Review: Beef Processors
The Committee received this award for its 2007 Tax Preference Performance Review: Beef Processors. In December 2003, the U.S. discovered its first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly referred to as “mad cow disease”) in a Washington State dairy cow. In reaction to fears that consuming infected beef could result in human health problems, several nations across the world instituted bans on importing beef from the U.S. In 2004, Washington State enacted legislation providing temporary tax relief for Washington State beef processors that may have been economically impacted by the import bans. In 2007, JLARC evaluated this tax preference in order to inform the Legislature about whether the temporary tax relief should be continued or allowed to expire. JLARC’s report, issued in March 2007, concluded that while not all trading nations had lifted their import bans on U.S. beef, several economic indicators noted that the beef production industry had substantially recovered from the initial impacts of import bans. In fact, beef prices, industry wages, production volume, and production value were all exceeding levels prior to the discovery of “mad cow disease.” As a result, JLARC recommended that the tax preference should expire.
2008 Impact Award— Life Cycle Cost Model Update
The Committee received this award for its 2007 Life Cycle Cost Model Update. In 1995, JLARC conducted a performance audit of the state’s capital planning and budgeting process. In the course of the audit, JLARC developed several versions of a Life Cycle Cost Model for the purpose of comparing leasing versus ownership alternatives for state facilities. The 2006 Supplemental Capital Budget directed JLARC to conduct an update to the Model. With this update, JLARC ensured the model’s underlying economic principles were valid and enhanced the model’s ability to compare alternative financing approaches. JLARC found that the state lacks specific policies and clear guidance on when and how to use life cycle cost analysis, that there is a lack of oversight of analyses that are conducted, and that key economic assumptions should be regularly updated in the model. The report includes three recommendations: 1) The Office of Financial Management (OFM) should maintain the new model and establish policies and standards regarding its use; 2) OFM should review life cycle cost analyses to ensure standards have been followed and analyses are accurate; and 3) OFM should regularly update assumptions in the model. Subsequently, the Legislature passed comprehensive facility planning and oversight legislation in 2007 (Substitute House Bill 2366). Section 3 of this bill took the management recommendations JLARC issued to OFM in its study and went further by making these recommendations a statutory responsibility of OFM.
2007 Impact Award – Review of Port Angeles Graving Dock Project
The Committee received this award for its 2006 review of Port Angeles Graving Dock Project. In March 2005, Legislators and the Transportation Performance Audit Board (TPAB) requested that JLARC conduct a study of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) Hood Canal Bridge east half replacement project, Port Angeles graving dock site. Legislators and TPAB wanted to review the chain of events which led first to the decision to construct a graving dock at the Port Angeles site, and then to the abandonment of that construction in December 2004 due to the discovery of a historically significant Native American village with extensive archaeological resources and human remains at the site. JLARC reviewed the site selection, environmental permitting, archaeological assessment, interactions of interested parties, and conducted a fiscal analysis of the project. JLARC utilized consulting services to obtain specialized expertise in archaeology, geo-archaeology, transportation construction, and tribal relations. JLARC found that WSDOT’s project management was inadequate and did not utilize project management disciplines such as critical path scheduling and that WSDOT did not have financial information that would allow one to easily compare budgets to actual expenditures for the project. JLARC issued 31 recommendations to improve areas identified in the audit.
2006 Impact Award— Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fire Suppression Policy Study
The Committee received this award for its 2005 study of fire suppression at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The study explains how DNR operates its fire suppression program, offers explanations for spending increases, and suggests changes that could enhance policymaker's understanding of how DNR fights fires. Most of the fires DNR has fought over the past ten years have been on private land and the state's general fund pays most of the costs. There is no single factor causing spending increases but the study found that when conditions are ripe for wildfires and they do burn more acres, and consequently there is a close connection between total expenditures and the number of acres burned. DNR complies with statutory direction to fight wildfires aggressively and does not fight house fires, but when DNR shifts its focus to protecting homes and structures from wildfires, this may conflict with statutory direction. DNR's financial and data systems do a poor job of helping decision makers understand costs, and the budgeting process for fire suppression needs to be changed to increase budget accuracy.
2005 Impact Award— Washington Medicaid Study
The Committee received this award for its 2004 Washington Medicaid Study. The report highlights initiatives aimed at improving the coordination of services and resources to persons receiving Medicaid-funded services. JLARC identified opportunities to strengthen the oversight of decentralized state management of Medicaid as a “program” rather than “just a funding source” for a collection of acute and long-term care services. The report concluded with recommendations intended to achieve the following: improve key data systems to support a comprehensive approach to policymaking; extend the view of Medicaid as a program to its fiscal management by rigorously reviewing approximately $5 billion in biennial Medicaid expenditures for cost containment opportunities; and assess the best techniques for understanding future caseload patterns.
2004 Impact Award— Higher Education Facilities Preservation Study The Committee received this award for its 2003 Higher Education Facilities Preservation Study. JLARC focused on capital facilities stewardship and preservation policy issues at Washington’s public higher education institutions. Higher education accounts for about two-thirds of all state facilities in Washington State. JLARC undertook this complex study at the direction of our Legislature’s 2001-03 Capital Budget and, for the first time, assembled comparable information on college and university building inventories and conditions. Our Legislature implemented JLARC’s recommendations during its 2003 and 2004 Sessions, targeted $283 million in the 2003-05 biennium for higher education facilities preservation, and made other policy changes that reinforced the findings and recommendations from this study.
2003 Impact Award— Capital Study of the DDD Residential Habilitation Centers
The Committee received this award for its 2002 Capital Study of DDD Residential Habilitation Centers. JLARC looked at alternative uses of these institutions given a declining need for institutional living among the state’s developmentally disabled persons. This study assessed the relative worth—in terms of current real estate value and use as well as alternative uses—of each of these five institutions. Fircrest School, located in Shoreline, was determined to have the highest alternative use and potential market value. The study’s results stimulated considerable legislative debate and public discussion during the 2003 Legislative Session. The 2003-05 state operating and capital budgets call for downsizing at Fircrest School over the next several years.
2002 Impact Award— Investing in the Environment: Environmental Quality Grant and Loan Programs Performance Audit
A 2002 Recognition of Impact award for JLARC’s 2001 Investing in the Environment: Environmental Quality Grant and Loan Programs Performance Audit. JLARC initiated this audit in response to legislative interest in the performance of environmental grants and loans funded in the state’s capital budget—$440 million in the 1999-01 biennium, and $472 million in 2001-03. JLARC made six recommendations aimed at turning Washington’s environmental grants and loan programs away from a “distribution” means for getting money out to local areas, to an “investment” system that can document the results and impacts of these expenditures. Two pieces of legislation were enacted in the 2001 Session underscoring our Legislature’s intent to follow through on JLARC’s recommendations.
2001 Impact Award— Mental Health System Performance Audit
A 2001 Recognition of Impact award from NLPES for JLARC's performance audit of Washington State's Mental Health System. JLARC made 14 recommendations geared to improving the performance of mental health programs, and to give higher priority to better client outcomes as a key part of this improved performance. In addition, the 2001 Legislature enacted bills to require changes to complement JLARC's recommendations.
2000 Impact Award— Rural Area Marketing Plan Evaluation
A 2000 Recognition of Impact Award from NLPES for JLARC's Rural Area Marketing Plan Evaluation. This study outlined "lessons learned" in JLARC's evaluation of some of Washington's recent economic development efforts. One of the impacts of this study was to propose a strengthened Washington Sunset law—that law was enacted in the 2000 Session.
1999 Excellence in Evaluation Award— Worker's Compensation and Department of Corrections Performance Audits
The 1999 Excellence in Evaluation Award for recent accomplishments on Worker's Compensation and Department of Corrections performance audits. The Excellence in Evaluation Award is awarded annually to legislative performance audit committees whose work on state problems and issues contributes to legislative decision-making.
1998 Impact Award--Nursing Home Reimbursement System Performance Audit
1998 Impact Award from NLPES for the performance audit and follow-up work done on the state's Nursing Home Reimbursement System. Based on recommendations contained in the nursing home report, completed in 1994, the Legislature reduced the budget for nursing home payments by $39 million in its 1995 Session. It also repealed the existing reimbursement system effective July 1998 and directed the state's Department of Social and Health Services to develop a new system in consultation with JLARC. This new system was approved by the Legislature during its 1998 Session. The ongoing fiscal impact of the report is over $50 million in savings per year.
1997 Impact Award--State Investment Board Performance Audit
An Impact Award in 1997 from NLPES for JLARC's 1992 performance audit of the State Investment Board (SIB). That audit achieved considerable cost savings on behalf of the citizens of Washington State, including a $140 million settlement payment to the SIB by a real estate investment firm.
1992 Excellence in Research Design and Methodology— Basic Health Plan Study
A 1992 award for excellence in research design and methodology from NLPES for JLARC’s Basic Health Plan Study. That study recommended ways to do without most of the consultant services that had totaled $247,000 over three years. JLARC also recommended pooling insurance coverage, saving up to $200,000 per year.