Law and government
United States. Washington was carved out of the western part
of Washington. Territory which had been ceded by Britain in
1846 by the Oregon Treaty as settlement of the Oregon
Boundary Dispute. It was admitted to the Union as the fortysecond state in 1889. The United States Census Bureau
estimated the state's population was 6,549,224 as of 2008.
Nearly 60 percent of Washington's residents live in the Seattle
metropolitan area, the center of transportation, business, and
industry, and home to an internationally known arts community.
after George Washington,
the first President of the
United States, and is the
only U.S. state named
after a president.
Washington is often
state or the State of
distinguish it from the
District of Columbia.
(and many residents of
normally refer to the
state simply as
usually referring to the
nation's capital as
"Washington, D.C." or
5. GeographyWashington is the northwestern-most state of the contiguous United States.
Its northern border lies mostly along the 49th parallel, and then via marine
boundaries through the Strait of Georgia, Haro Strait and Strait of Juan de
Fuca, with the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north.
Washington borders Oregon to the south, with the Columbia River forming
most of the boundary and the 46th parallel forming the eastern part of the
southern boundary. To the east Washington borders Idaho, bounded mostly
by the meridian running north from the confluence of the Snake River and
Clearwater River (about 116°57' west), except for the southernmost section
where the border follows the Snake River. To the west of Washington lies the
Pacific Ocean. Washington was a Union territory during the American Civil
War, although it never actually participated in the war.
Pacific Northwest, a term which always
includes at least Washington and Oregon and
may or may not include Idaho, western
Montana, northern California, and part or all
of British Columbia, Alaska, and the Yukon
Territory, depending on the speaker or
writer's intent. The high mountains of the
Cascade Range run north-south, bisecting
the state. Western Washington, west of the
Cascades, has a mostly marine west coast
climate with relatively mild temperatures,
wet winters, and dry summers. Western
Washington also supports dense forests of
conifers and areas of temperate rain forest.
In contrast, Eastern Washington, east of the
Cascades, has a relatively dry climate with
large areas of semiarid steppe and a few
truly arid deserts lying in the rainshadow of
the Cascades; the Hanford reservation
receives an average annual precipitation of
between six and seven inches (178 mm).
Farther east, the climate becomes less arid.
The Palouse region of southeast Washington
was grassland that has been mostly
converted into farmland. Other parts of
eastern Washington are forested and
higher than the rest of the mountains. From the north to the south these
volcanoes are Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and
Mount Adams. Mount St. Helens is currently the only Washington volcano that is
actively erupting; however, all of them are considered active volcanoes.
Washington's position on the Pacific Ocean and the harbors of Puget Sound give
the state a leading role in maritime trade with Alaska, Canada, and the Pacific
Rim. Puget Sound's many islands are served by the largest ferry fleet in the
Washington is a land of contrasts. The deep forests of the Olympic Peninsula,
such as the Hoh Rain Forest, are among the only temperate rainforests in the
continental United States, but the semi-desert east of the Cascade Range has few
trees. Mount Rainier, the highest mountain in the state, is covered with more
glacial ice than any other peak in the lower 48 states.
8. ClimateWashington's climate varies greatly from west to east.
An oceanic climate (also called "west coast marine
climate") predominates in western Washington, and a
much drier semi-arid climate prevails east of the
Cascade Range. Major factors determining
Washington's climate include the large semipermanent high pressure and low pressure systems of
the north Pacific Ocean, the continental air masses of
North America, and the Olympic and Cascade
mountains. In the spring and summer, a high
pressure anticyclone system dominates the north
Pacific Ocean, causing air to spiral out in a clockwise
fashion. For Washington this means prevailing winds
from the northwest bringing relatively cool air and a
predictably dry season. In the autumn and winter, a
low pressure cyclone system takes over in the north
Pacific Ocean, with air spiraling inward in a counterclockwise fashion. This causes Washington's
prevailing winds to come from the southwest,
bringing relatively warm and moist air masses and a
predictably wet season. The term Pineapple Express
is used to describe the extreme form of this wet
many coastal cities of Europe, there are exceptions such as the "Big Snow"
events of 1880, 1881, 1893 and 1916 and the "deep freeze" winters of
1883–84, 1915–16, 1949–50 and 1955–56, among others. During these
events western Washington experienced up to 6 feet (1.8 m) of snow, subzero (−18°C) temperatures, three months with snow on the ground, and
lakes and rivers frozen over for weeks. Seattle's lowest officially recorded
temperature is 0 °F (−18 °C) set on January 31, 1950, but areas a short
distance away from Seattle have recorded lows as cold as −20 °F
In 2006, the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington
published The Impacts of Climate change in Washington’s Economy, a
preliminary assessment on the risks and opportunities presented given the
possibility of a rise in global temperatures and their effects on Washington
10. DemographicsAccording to the U.S. Census, as of 2008, Washington has an estimated population of
6,549,224, which is an increase of 655,081, or 11.1%, since the year 2000. This includes a
natural increase of 221,958 people (that is, 503,819 births minus 281,861 deaths) and an
increase from net migration of 287,759 people into the state. Immigration from outside the
United States resulted in a net increase of 157,950 people, and migration within the country
produced a net increase of 129,809 people. Washington ranks first in the Pacific Northwest
region in terms of population, followed by Oregon, and Idaho.
The center of population of Washington in the year 2000 was located in an unpopulated part of
rural eastern King County, southeast of North Bend and northeast of Enumclaw.
As of the Census 2000, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Area's population was
3,043,878, approximately half the state's total population.
As of 2004, Washington's population included 631,500 foreign-born (10.3% of the state
population), and an estimated 100,000 illegal aliens (1.6% of state population).
6.7% of Washington's population was reported as under 5, 25.7% under 18, and 11.2% were
65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.2% of the population.
11. ReligionMajor religious affiliations of the people of
Protestant – 49%
Mainline – 23%
Evangelical – 25%
Other Protestant – 1%
Roman Catholic – 16%
Latter-day Saint – 4%
Muslim – 1%
Jewish – 1%
Other Religions – 3%
Unaffiliated – 25%
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman
Catholic Church with 716,133; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints with 178,000 (253,166 year-end 2007) ; and the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America with 127,854.
As with many other Western states, the percentage of Washington's
population identifying themselves as "non-religious" is higher than the
national average. The percentage of non-religious people in Washington is
the highest of any state other than Colorado with 31%.
12. EconomyThe 2007 total gross state product for Washington was $311.5 billion, placing it 14th in the
nation.[ The per capita personal income in 2007 was $41,203, 10th in the nation. Significant
business within the state include the design and manufacture of jet aircraft (Boeing), computer
software development (Microsoft, Amazon.com, Nintendo of America, Valve Corporation),
electronics, biotechnology, aluminum production, lumber and wood products (Weyerhaeuser),
mining, and tourism. The state has significant amounts of hydroelectric power generation.
Significant amounts of trade with Asia pass through the ports of the Puget Sound. See list of
United States companies by state. Fortune magazine survey of the top 20 Most Admired
Companies in the US has 4 Washington based companies in it, Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco and
The state of Washington has the least progressive tax structure in the U.S.[clarification needed]
It is one of only seven states that does not levy a personal income tax. The state also does not
collect a corporate income tax or franchise tax. However, Washington businesses are
responsible for various other state levies. One tax Washington charges on most businesses is
the business and occupation tax (B & O), a gross receipts tax which charges varying rates for
different types of businesses.
Washington's state sales tax is 6.5 percent, and it
applies to services as well as products. Most foods
are exempt from sales tax; however, prepared foods,
dietary supplements and soft drinks remain taxable.
The combined state and local retail sales tax rates
increase the taxes paid by consumers, depending on
the variable local sales tax rates, generally between
8 and 9 percent. An excise tax applies to certain
select products such as gasoline, cigarettes, and
alcoholic beverages. Property tax was the first tax
levied in the state of Washington and its collection
accounts for about 30 percent of Washington's total
state and local revenue. It continues to be the most
important revenue source for public schools, fire
protection, libraries, parks and recreation, and other
special purpose districts.
All real property and personal property is subject to
tax unless specifically exempted by law. Personal
property also is taxed, although most personal
property owned by individuals is exempt. Personal
property tax applies to personal property used when
conducting business or to other personal property
not exempt by law. All property taxes are paid to the
county treasurer's office where the property is
located. Washington does not impose a tax on
intangible assets such as bank accounts, stocks or
bonds. Neither does the state assess any tax on
retirement income earned and received from another
state. Washington does not collect inheritance taxes;
however, the estate tax is decoupled from the
federal estate tax laws, and therefore the state
imposes its own estate tax.
sales of alcoholic beverages, although beer and wine with less than 20
percent alcohol by volume can be purchased in convenience stores and
supermarkets. Liqueurs (even if under 20 percent alcohol by volume) and
spirits can only be purchased in state-run or privately-owned-statecontracted liquor stores.
Among its resident billionaires, Washington boasts Bill Gates, chairman of
Microsoft, who, with a net worth of $40 billion, was ranked the wealthiest
man in the world as of February 2009, according to Forbes magazine.Other
Washington state billionaires include Paul Allen (Microsoft), Steve Ballmer
(Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Craig McCaw (McCaw Cellular
Communications), James Jannard (Oakley), Howard Schultz (Starbucks),
and Charles Simonyi (Microsoft).
15. AgricultureWashington is a leading agricultural state. (The following figures are from the
Washington State Office of Financial Management and the USDA, National
Agricultural Statistics Service, Washington Field Office.) For 2003, the total value
of Washington's agricultural products was $5.79 billion, the 11th highest in the
country. The total value of its crops was $3.8 billion, the 7th highest. The total
value of its livestock and specialty products was $1.5 billion, the 26th highest.
In 2004, Washington ranked first in the nation in production of red raspberries
(90.0% of total U.S. production), wrinkled seed peas (80.6%), hops (75.0%),
spearmint oil (73.6%), apples (58.1%), sweet cherries (47.3%), pears (42.6%),
peppermint oil (40.3%), Concord grapes (39.3%), carrots for processing
(36.8%), and Niagara grapes (31.6%). Washington also ranked second in the
nation in production of lentils, fall potatoes, dry edible peas, apricots, grapes (all
varieties taken together), asparagus (over a third of the nation's production),
sweet corn for processing, and green peas for processing; third in tart cherries,
prunes and plums, and dry summer onions; fourth in barley and trout; and fifth in
wheat, cranberries, and strawberries.
16. Law and governmentThe bicameral Washington State
Legislature is the state's legislative
branch. The state legislature is composed
of a lower House of Representatives and
an upper State Senate. The state is
divided into 49 legislative districts of
equal population, each of which elects
two representatives and one senator.
Representatives serve two-year terms,
whilst senators serve for four years.
There are no term limits. Currently, the
Democratic Party holds majorities in both
Washington's executive branch is headed
by a governor elected for a four-year
term. The current governor is Christine
Gregoire, a Democrat who has been in
office since 2005.
The Washington Supreme Court is the
highest court in the state. Nine justices
serve on the bench and are elected
The Washington State
Capitol in Olympia.
17. PoliticsThe state has been thought of as politically divided by the Cascade
Mountains, with Western Washington being liberal (particularly the I-5
Corridor) and Eastern Washington being conservative. Lately however,
Washington has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in every
election since 1988. Spokane, the state's second largest city located in
Eastern Washington, has been leaning more liberal, with one example being
Democrat Maria Cantwell winning by a wide margin in the 2006 senate race
against Republican Mike McGavick. Since the population is larger in the
west, the Democrats usually fare better statewide. More specifically, the
Seattle metro area (especially King County) generally delivers strong
Democratic margins, while the outlying areas of Western Washington were
nearly tied in both 2000 and 2004. It was considered a key swing state in
1968, and it was the only Western state to give its electoral votes to
Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey over his Republican opponent
Revolution, and had the biggest pickup in the house for Republicans, making
7 of the 9 house members Republicans for the state of Washington.However,
this dominance did not last for long as Democrats picked up one seat in the
1996 election and two more in 1998, giving the Democrats a 5–4 majority.
The two current United States Senators from Washington are Patty Murray
and Maria Cantwell, both of whom are members of the Democratic Party.
The office of Governor is held by Christine Gregoire, who was re-elected to
her second term in the 2008 gubernatorial election. Washington is the first
and only state in the country to have elected women to both of its United
States Senate seats and the office of Governor. Both houses of the
Washington State Legislature (the Washington Senate and the Washington
House of Representatives) are currently controlled by the Democratic Party.
19. EducationElementary and secondary
As of the 2008-2009 school year, 1,040,750 students were
enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in Washington,
with 59,562 teachers employed to educate them. As of August
2009, there were 295 school districts in the state, serviced by
nine educational service districts. Washington School
Information Processing Cooperative (a non-profit, opt-in, State
agency) provides information management systems for fiscal &
human resources and student data. Elementary and secondary
schools are under the jurisdiction of the Office of
Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), led by State School
Superintendent Randy Dorn.
High school juniors and seniors in Washington have the option
of utilizing the state's Running Start program. Initiated by the
state legislature in 1990, the program allows students attend
institutions of higher education at public expense,
simultaneously earning high school and college credit.
20. Colleges and universitiesState universities
Central Washington University
Eastern Washington University
The Evergreen State College
University of Washington
Washington State University
Western Washington University
21. State symbolsThe state song is "Washington, My Home,"
the state bird is the American Goldfinch, the
state fruit is the apple, and the state
vegetable is the Walla Walla sweet onion.
The state dance, adopted in 1979, is the
square dance. The state tree is the Western
Hemlock. The state flower is the Coast
Rhododendron. The state fish is the
steelhead trout. The state folk song is "Roll
On, Columbia, Roll On" by Woody Guthrie.
The State Grass is bluebunch wheatgrass.
The state insect is the Green Darner
Dragonfly. The state gem is petrified wood.
The state fossil is the Columbian Mammoth.
The state marine mammal is the orca. The
state land mammal is the Olympic Marmot.
The state seal (featured in the state flag as
well) was inspired by the unfinished portrait
by Gilbert Stuart.
22. LiteratureEnglish in topics