Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Printing reforms could save Washington state up to $13.6 million per year

by April 25th, 2011

SUMMARY: According to a newly-released state performance audit, Washington could save between $5 million and $13.6 million per year by eliminating duplication in printing operations, controlling costs of printing equipment and supplies, using electronic technologies – more often than now – in place of paper printing, and by clearing obstacles that constrain competitive bidding including private firms.

BACKGROUND: Through Washington voter approval of Initiative 900 in 2005, the State Auditor’s Office was authorized to begin in 2006 to pursue performance audits of major state agencies, and regional and local governments. The aim of these audits is to identify operating inefficiencies and make recommendations for reforms to save money and improve service delivery. A number of Washington state performance audits have already been completed, and more are in progress. The new performance audit of the state printing office is the first since February 1.

Management archive, Public Data Ferret

KEY LINK: Performance Audit of Washington State Department of Printing Services, Washington State Auditor’s Office, April 25, 2011.


  • Total costs to Washington state for printing in fiscal year 2010 were $77.3 million. Slightly more than half, or $38.8 million, was for maintenance, supplies and other support expenses; $10.9 million of the total was spent at state agency print shops, $10.4 million for outsourced (private sector) printing work; and $17.9 million with the State Printer.
  • Costly inefficiencies are several. State law frequently prevents state divisions from getting competitive bids from private printers. As well, Sstate agency print shops create an unnecessary replication of the services provided by the state’s central print shop, where only 12 of 64 devices were used at greater than 50 percent capacity in 2010.
  • Lawmakers should take steps to eliminate the state printing office’s “right of first refusal,” and ensure competitive bidding is allowed on all print jobs for state agencies. They should also eliminate the price cap rules which often prevent the state printing department from recovering costs on jobs for state agencies.
  • The state Office of Financial Management (OFM) should direct the departments of transportation, employment security, social and health services, and labor and industries to consolidate their printing equipment with the state printing department. The offices of The Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Attorney General, and the state legislature, should consolidate their printing equipment and staff with the central print shop. A total of nine state agencies have their own in-house print shops, with 59 full-time-equivalent employees and combined expenses in fiscal year 2010 of $10.2 million.
  • OFM should develop strategies for divisions of state government to reduce use of paper, more often employ electronic technologies in place of printing, and take other steps to contain printing costs in Washington state government. These costs include computers which are used for desktop publishing, plus copiers, printers, paper, ink and other printing supplies. Best practices should start with tracking, managing and reducing the volume and cost of office-based printing.
  • Overall, the state could save between $5 million and $13.6 million per year, through increased competition, consolidation of print shops and reduction of office-based printing costs.

Matt Rosenberg is founder and editor of Public Data Ferret, a project of the non-profit Public Eye Northwest.

One Response to “Printing reforms could save Washington state up to $13.6 million per year”

  1. […] RELATED: Meeting Agenda Notice, Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee, Washington State Legislature, Olympia, Wash., May 18, 2011 – including presentations by State Auditor’s Office on two recent performance audits; L&I prescription drug reimbursements, and the Department of Printing Services. […]