The Alki Point Lighthouse in West Seattle. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

The Alki Point Lighthouse in West Seattle. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

U.S. News tells Washington state: ‘You’re No. 1’

The ranking is based on factors such as crime, the economy, education, health care and infrastructure.

Spokane Spokesman-Review and Herald staff

OLYMPIA — Washingtonians who listen closely may hear a few chants of “We’re number one! We’re number one!”

It won’t be coming from sports fans but from civic boosters and chamber of commerce types trying to attract new residents or businesses to the Evergreen State.

The national news magazine U.S. News and World Report, in a story posted Tuesday, put Washington at the top of its annual “Best States” list.

This is not a result of a playoff like the NCAA Basketball tournament, with Washington beating No. 16 Idaho, No. 19 California, No. 27 Oregon and No. 29 Montana in regional competition to advance to the finals, then knocking off New Hampshire, which finished in second place in the U.S. News rankings.

Nothing quite so exciting, or so clear cut. The magazine used data from a wide range of government and private organizations in eight broad categories: crime, economy, education, fiscal stability, health care, infrastructure, opportunity and environment. Those were split into two or three subcategories, and the relative value of each category was weighted by a survey of more than 50,000 people who were asked to prioritize those eight categories in their state.

When all of those numbers were crunched, Washington didn’t finish first in any individual category. Its highest score was second in infrastructure, which may surprise people bouncing through potholes or stuck in traffic, until one factors in the energy subcategory, which is relatively cheap in Washington compared to most parts of the country, and internet access, which is also good, at least for the majority of the population in urban areas.

Washington also finished third for economy, which other ratings groups have noted, and fourth in education and health care. The lowest it scored was 22 for fiscal stability, which was only worth about 10% of the final grade. Republicans might also note it’s based on data from before the Legislature raised taxes to increase the state budget last month.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running for president, wasted no time capitalizing on the news.

“Washington state is an example of how climate action and a strong economy go hand in hand,” the governor said. “We are as confident as ever about our efforts to speed up the transition to clean energy.”

That conclusion might be a stretch in light of the state’s No. 14 ranking in the environment category, which is equally divided between data on air and water quality, and pollution. But hey, that’s nit-picking. We’re number one!

“These rankings show Washington’s success on a variety of different levels, to be the number one state in the country, and also ranked both the best economy and the best place for workers is incredible, yet unsurprising,” Inslee said. “This is an exceptional place to live, work, raise a family and open a business. And we are working hard to make sure all Washingtonians have an opportunity to benefit from our growth and success.”

Being No. 1, by a method chosen by any national publication or organization, is good for a few high fives and some self-congratulatory pats on the back. Numbers 2 through 50 might focus on a category where they are on top, beat their neighboring state or ignore the rankings completely.

Washington didn’t make a big deal about being No. 6 last year. Iowa, which fell from the top spot to No. 14, might be forgiven if it doesn’t rush to update any materials or presentations that focus on the 2018 rankings.

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