Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1955 No. 57 - Apr 13 1955
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Accounts in the general fund shall be treated as general fund moneys.

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                                                                   April 13, 1955

Honorable Charles R. Maybury
State Treasurer
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 57

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office as to the status of certain funds which were transferred to the general fund as accounts by chapter 379, Laws of 1955.  Your specific questions are as follows:

            Should the treasurer list each separate account in the general fund in order to receipt the moneys received into the proper account?  Answer ‑ Yes.

            Should the treasurer set up his records to reflect the amounts paid from each specific account?  Answer ‑ No.

            Should the newly created accounts be considered separate and apart from the general fund?  Answer ‑ No.

            May warrants drawn on these new accounts be considered as interest-bearing warrants where no funds are available?  Answer ‑ Yes.

            May balances in these accounts be considered as part of the general fund and used in redeeming outstanding general fund warrants?  Answer ‑ Yes.


            All of the foregoing questions create administrative problems of accounting in giving full force and effect to the intent of the legislature in enacting chapter 379, Laws of 1955.  Thus the state treasurer and the state auditor have considerable discretion and control over the manner in which these accounts in  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] the general fund are administered.

            The legislative budget committee sponsored chapter 370, Laws of 1955.  The intent of the committee was to simplify the fund structure of the state and to improve the status of the general fund.  Nevertheless, it is axiomatic that legislative intent must be determined from the wording of the act itself.  The act abolishes the funds as such and re‑establishes [[reestablishes]]the same moneys as accounts in the general fund.

            A fund has been defined as follows:

            "A 'fund' is merely a name for a collection or an appropriation of money.  It may be nothing but a designation of one branch of the accounts of the state, or of a certain amount of money, when collected, to be applied to a particular purpose.  It may have no property and represent no investments, and what are called its revenues may include all the moneys appropriated or directed to be paid to it, or for its benefit, or that of the objects it represents.  People v. New York Cent. R. Co., N.Y., 34 Barb. 123, 135."  (17 Words & Phrases p. 802)

            On the other hand an account has been defined as follows:

            "Primary idea of 'account,' whether in proceedings of courts of law or equity, in some matter of debt and credit, or demands in nature of debt and credit between parties.  It implies that one is responsible to another for moneys or things, either on the score of contract, or some fiduciary relation of a public or private nature, created by law or otherwise.  Seccombe v. Dionne, 40 P.2d 299, 300, 3 Cal.App. 2d 731."  (1 Words & Phrases 524)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            RCW 43.08.010 prescribes the general duties of the treasurer to include:

            "The state treasurer shall:

            "(1) Receive and keep all moneys of the state not expressly required by law to be received and kept by some other persons;

            "(2) Disburse the public moneys only upon warrants drawn upon the treasurer by the state auditor in the order of their number, date, and issue;

            "(3) Keep a just, true, and comprehensive account of all moneys received and disbursed;

            "(5) Render his accounts to the state auditor in detail, for settlement quarterly, on the thirty-first day of March, thirtieth day of June, thirtieth day of September, and thirty-first day of December, of each year, or oftener if required;

            "(6) Indorse on each warrant the date of payment, the amount of the principal, and the interest due on that date;

            "* * *"

            RCW 43.09.050 sets forth the general duties of the auditor for our purposes to be:

            "The auditor shall:

            "(2) Draw all warrants upon the treasury for money, except in cases otherwise expressly provided by law;

            "(3) Keep a correct register, in tabular form, of all warrants issued, showing the number, date,  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] amount, to whom and for what payable, with an additional column in which to enter the date on which each warrant is returned or paid;

            "(4) Express in the body of every warrant drawn upon the treasury the particular fund appropriated by law out of which it is to be paid;

            "* * *"

            Therefore, in view of the foregoing definitions of "fund" and "account" and the statutes set forth, it appears that generally the treasurer receives moneys for the credit of various funds and disburses at the direction of the auditor upon warrants, while the auditor maintains particular accounts.  There is precedent for this procedure in moneys received by the treasurer from the federal government.

            To reach any other conclusion would require a finding that the accounts transferred to the general fund were trust accounts.  The act obviously does not set them apart in the general fund as trust accounts for the purposes of accounting by the treasurer, and warrants presented upon the account in the general fund may be endorsed as provided in RCW 43.08.070 as follows:

            "Upon the presentation of any state warrant to the state treasurer, if there are no funds in the state treasury, he shall endorse on the warrant, 'Not paid for want of funds,' with the day and date of presentation, and the warrant shall draw legal interest from that date until paid."

            Having concluded that these accounts are a part of the general fund, there is no basis for the state treasurer to treat them in any other manner than as general fund moneys.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            We hope the foregoing analysis will assist you and the auditor in working out the administrative detail giving effect to chapter 370, Laws of 1955.

Yours very truly,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General