By Anne Lowe

OPEN GOVERNMENT – A bill aiming to increase government transparency by requiring key financial information of state and local agencies to be posted in a central location on the Internet was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Saturday—with something like a "been there, done that" rationale.

AB 1899 would have required summaries of all state contracts worth $5,000 or more to be posted on a central website for public review. Internal audits of state agencies would have also been included in the bill’s reporting requirements, plus travel and lodging expenses and statements of financial interests of key state employees.

Schwarzenegger, however, chose to claim credit for having anticipated these measures rather than allow them to become permanent.  His veto message said.

I strongly support the goal of transparency in government and believe that posting information online is a simple method of achieving this goal and allowing citizens information about how their tax dollars are spent. For that reason I have issued executive orders directing posting of this type of material to the Reporting Transparency in Government Web site.  As such, this bill is not necessary.

Under Schwarzenegger’s executive order, which under the law need not be sustained by his successors, the website currently lists information such as travel expense claims, salaries for Governor’s Office employees, pensions and internal audits and state contract information.

The bill passed the state Senate and Assembly in August and was co-sponsored by Californians Aware and SEIU Local 1000.