Washington State Institute for Public Policy
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September 2015
Initiative 502, passed by Washington voters in November 2012, legalized the limited adult possession and private consumption of cannabis, as well as its licensed production and sale. The initiative directs WSIPP to evaluate the impact of the law in a series of reports between 2015 and 2032.

It is too early in the history of I-502 to evaluate outcomes. This first required report describes the research plan for the overall study and presents preliminary data on the status of implementation of the law as of June 30, 2015. Ultimately, WSIPP’s evaluation will include a full descriptive study of implementation; an outcome study to identify causal effects of the law on a range of outcomes (e.g., substance use and abuse, health, criminal justice, traffic safety); and a benefit-cost analysis of the net economic impact of the law.
Download: Report
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February 2014
In 1998, Washington State voters legalized the use of medical marijuana for certain medical purposes. Very little is known about patient access to medical marijuana and other implications of the law. At the local level, some cities and counties have prohibited collective cultivation of medicinal marijuana. Most Washington residents, however, live in areas that allow collective gardens.

This report describes local regulations regarding medical marijuana.
Download: Full Report
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November 2013
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy is directed to conduct a benefit-cost analysis of the implementation of I-502, which legalizes recreational cannabis use for adults within the state. As a preliminary step, we analyzed population-level data to begin monitoring four key indicators of cannabis use prior to implementation.

We used data from the 2002 to 2011 administrations of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to examine trends in the prevalence of current cannabis use, lifetime cannabis use, age of initiation, and cannabis abuse or dependency. We examined these trends separately for youth and adults in Washington, and also provide estimates for Colorado (the other state that has legalized recreational cannabis use) and the rest of the United States (US).

Examining trends in this manner will allow us to monitor whether the implementation of I-502 appears to affect these key indicators of marijuana use over time. Although more sophisticated analyses will be required for us to evaluate the policy, these initial trends provide a baseline to compare future data against. The prevalence of cannabis use in the past 30 days—a key indicator of the proportion of people who are current cannabis users—appears to be on the rise in recent years among both youth and adults in Washington, Colorado, and the US. The other indicators of use appear to be relatively stable or increasing slightly over time. In general, the estimates from Washington are slightly higher than the US and slightly lower than Colorado.

We will continue to monitor these trends over time within the context of our larger benefit-cost analysis to examine whether the new policy appears to affect marijuana use rates within the state.
Download: Full Report
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January 2013
The 2012 Washington State Legislature appropriated funding to conduct a detailed analysis of potential mechanisms for reducing the amount of and variation in the state’s fire suppression costs. The desired analysis consists of two parts:
  1. An examination of Oregon’s excess forest fire suppression cost insurance program and an analysis of the potential application of this model for Washington, and
  2. An examination of Washington’s total and marginal costs related to staffing and overtime to determine whether these total or marginal costs are in excess of market rates.
Based on this direction, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (Institute) developed a scope of work that incorporated the legislature’s objectives to address two issues: the variability in wildfire suppression budget requirements and fire suppression labor costs. After a competitive selection process, WSIPP contracted with FCS GROUP to conduct the analysis, and the FCS GROUP team worked primarily with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to gather data and information. In addition, FCS GROUP held discussions with key external DNR stakeholders such as the Washington Forest Protection Association, Farm Forestry Association and Weyerhaeuser, and conducted a comparative analysis of how similar programs in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, British Columbia, and the United States Forest Service funded and managed their fire suppression expenditures. This report details this analysis and presents findings from FCS.

For more information, please contact John Bauer at (360) 586-2783, or bauerj@wsipp.wa.gov.
Download: Full Report
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December 2012
The 2012 Legislature directed the Institute to evaluate three topics related to public pension policies: benefit levels, portability, and excess compensation. The Institute consulted with the Office of the State Actuary, Department of Retirement Systems, and local government plan sponsors in conducting this study. We surveyed public pension plans in the 50 states to compare benefit levels. We also analyzed state data on recent retirees in Washington State to examine overtime and excess compensation. Finally, we contracted with a professional actuary who has expertise in public employee retirement systems to review our methods and findings. This report summarizes our findings.
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December 2011
In 2007, the Washington State Legislature passed Substitute Senate Bill 5320, establishing an Office of Public Guardianship (OPG) within the Administrative Office of the Courts. This new pilot program provides state-paid guardians for legally incapacitated individuals in cases where a volunteer guardian was unavailable and the individual lacks financial resources.

The pilot program started in five counties throughout Washington State, and now provides services in ten counties. While a limited number of incapacitated individuals were served during this pilot period, initial estimates (completed in 2005) found that 4,500 individuals may be eligible for a public guardian in Washington. This estimate, however, was based on research conducted over 20 years ago in different states.

This report uses two different sources – 2009 census data, and a 2011 survey of care providers – to estimate the need for public guardianships services in Washington State. Based on this analysis, we found that between 4,000 and 5,000 individuals may be potentially qualify for a public guardian. The need for these services is also classified according to region and type of care setting.
Download: Full Report
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December 2011
Guardians are court-appointed legal representatives who have the authority to make personal, medical, and financial decisions on behalf of incapacitated individuals. Washington State implemented a pilot program in 2007 to provide public (state-paid) guardianship services for individuals whose family members were unable to serve as a guardian, or the individual did not have financial resources to pay for a guardian.

This evaluation examines program outcomes and cost effectiveness for clients served by public guardians between 2008 and mid-2011. Our analysis over this period found the following:

• Average residential costs per client decreased by $8,131 over the 30-month study period. The average cost for providing a public guardian was $7,907 per client during that time.

• Personal care decreased by an average of 29 hours per month for public guardianship clients, compared with an increase in care hours for similar clients.

• One in five public guardianship clients showed improvements in self-sufficiency during the study.

This report discusses the characteristics and outcomes of public guardianship clients and presents related research on outcomes for public guardianship programs outside Washington State. While we found positive results for public guardianship clients in this evaluation, without a randomly assigned control group (that did not receive services), it is difficult to determine the extent to which public guardians may have contributed to these outcomes.
Download: Full Report
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November 2010
In 2009, the Legislature directed the Institute to study and make recommendations regarding disability benefits available to members of Washington State’s Public Employees’, Teachers’, and School Employees’ Retirement Systems (Plans 2/3).

This follow-up report summarizes the findings and recommendations of the 2009 Institute report and describes implementation efforts of the Health Care Authority regarding enhanced education, changes to Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) long-term disability (LTD) products, and their investigation of new LTD products; describes statutory changes and fiscal impacts associated with providing enhanced disability benefits to Plans 2/3 members; and discusses policy advantages and disadvantages for insurance and pension options.
Download: Follow-up Report
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May 2010
General Assistance-Unemployable (GA-U) is a Washington State-funded program that provides cash grants and medical benefits to adults who have temporary incapacities that prevent them from working. The GA-U caseload has increased from about 10,000 individuals in 1998 to over 16,000 in 2009. As of April 2009, the caseload was forecast to continue growing to over 20,000 people by 2013. Since about 2003, the GA-U caseload has risen faster than the state population and appears to correlate with growth in the number of adults in poverty and without health insurance.

In 2010, the GA-U was renamed the “Disability Lifeline Program.” The Disability Lifeline Program is similar to GA-U in most eligibility rules and benefits, except that the Disability Lifeline Program has a time limit during which individuals can receive benefits (up to 24 months within a five-year period). In the 2010 legislation that created the Disability Lifeline Program, the Institute was directed to “analyze the experiences of persons who have been terminated from disability lifeline benefits” due to time limits or other reasons. The Institute will track the number of former benefit recipients who transitioned to SSI benefits or became employed, in addition to other outcomes. This report is due in December, 2012.
Download: Full Report
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December 2009
The 2009 Legislature directed the Institute to review state general assistance programs and to identify “promising approaches that both improve client outcomes and reduce state costs.” General Assistance-Unemployable (GA-U) is a state-funded program that provides cash and medical assistance to adults with temporary incapacities (for example, an illness) that prevent them from working. Nineteen states (including Washington) operate GA-U programs. Research evidence suggests that client and taxpayer finance outcomes can be improved by providing treatment services to individuals diagnosed with mental illness or substance abuse disorders. These services are appropriate for many GA-U clients.
Download: Full Report
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110 FIFTH AVENUE SE, SUITE 214
P O BOX 40999
OLYMPIA, WA 98504
 
360.664.9800
institute@wsipp.wa.gov