National Association of State Retirement Administrators


The Washington State Department of Retirement Systems administers pension, disability, and defined contribution savings benefits for most public employees in the state, including state employees, employees of higher education, public school teachers, law enforcement officers, and firefighters, and employees of political subdivisions that have elected to participate. More than 1,300 state, local government, school district, and higher education employers participate. DRS administers eight retirement systems and 15 plans, including three hybrid plans, and a deferred compensation plan. Assets are managed by the Washington State Investment Board.

Authorizing Statutes

The department has the authority, per RCW 41.50.030, as now or hereafter amended, to administer the:

  • Washington public safety employees' retirement system created by chapter 41.37 RCW;

  • Washington law enforcement officers' and firefighters' retirement system created by chapter 41.26 RCW;


Per the U.S. Census, in FY 2021, employer contributions to Washington state and local government pension plans were 3.86 percent of all state and local government direct general spending.

Constitutional Protections

No explicit constitutional protection for public pension benefits, but courts provide protection based on impairment of contract principles. Bakenhus v. City of Seattle, 296 P.2d536 (1956)(public pension rights are contractual, based on a state promise made when the employee enters employment); Leonard v. City of Seattle, 503 P.2d 741, 747-48 (Wash. 1972)(pension rights vest "day to day" and year to year" creating a property right which vests completely upon retirement); Retired Public Employees Council of Washington v. Charles, 62 P.3d 470 (Wash. 2003)(appropriations bill lowering employer contributions did not violate the state constitutional prohibition against impairment of public contracts absent any indication that the lower contribution prevented the successful operation of the system or lessened the value of the retirement system). (WA CONST., Article 1, §23) Source: Robert Klausner, Esq., State Constitutional Protections for Public Sector Retirement Benefits

Flag of Washington[7] (August 25, 1923)

Population (2022) 7,785,786

Washington public pension statistics, per U.S. Census Bureau as of FY 2022 ($ in 000s)



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