Washington’s reciprocal bid preference statute went into effect on March 30, 2012.  The statute provides that contractors from other states that have an in-state bidder preference and are competing on public works projects in Washington will have the reciprocal bid preference amount added to their bid proposals. 

There are currently four other states that have laws providing for a bidder preference for in-state bidders: Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.  In those states, a set percent disadvantage is applied to the bid of an out-of-state contractor bidding on public works projects in those states.  These laws put Washington based contractors at a disadvantage when bidding in those states.  Under Washington’s new reciprocal bid preference statute, the disadvantage percentage for out-of-state contractors in Washington will be equal to the advantage given by the state with the bidding preference. 

Below is an example, provided by the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (“DES”), of how the law is applied to an Alaska based contractor bidding on a public project in Washington:


Alaska contractor bid amount                           $100,000

Multiplied by Alaska bidding preference            x       0.05

Total                                                             $    5,000


Alaska contractor bid amount                           $100,000

Amount added to Alaska contractor bid             $    5,000

Final bid total                                                $105,000

The “final bid total” above is the amount that is used by the Washington public agency in determining the low bidder for the public project.  Under this example, if a Washington bidder’s bid on the same project was $103,000, it would be considered a lower bid than the bid submitted by the Alaska based contractor.  However, if the Alaska based contractor’s final bid total ($105,000) is the lowest bid, the Alaska based contractor is the successful bidder and is awarded the contract for the bid amount of $100,000.

For the disadvantage to be applied under the Washington reciprocal bid preference statute, the contractor must be (1) from a state that provides a percentage bid preference to its resident contractors bidding on public works projects and (2) the contractor does not have a physical location in Washington at the time of bidding on the public works project. 

The state of residence for a nonresident contractor is the state in which the contractor was incorporated or, if not a corporation, the state where the contractor’s business entity was formed.

The reciprocal bid preference statute does not apply to small works or a limited public works projects, emergency public works projects, or “any other procurement exempt from competitive bidding”.  The statute does apply to all other competitively bid public works projects. 

Here is a link to the statute and here is a link to the release from the Washington State DES, which states that the statute went into effect on March 30, 2012 and provides instructions to public agencies.  The DES website also has a survey of the bidder preference laws by state. Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming each apply a 5% preference for local contractors according to the current DES survey.

The new law appears to apply to all bids submitted to public agencies after the March 30, 2012 effective date as determined by Washington DES.

Scroll to Top