Gibbons’ techniques

Gov. Jim Gibbons got a lot of favorable television coverage for signing an order supposedly making state budget information transparent and searchable online. “The ‘Nevada Open Government Initiative’ will put all the state’s financial transactions into a searchable database on a website,” reported KRNV. “Surrounded by cabinet members, Gov. Jim Gibbons made it clear he wants to be open and honest when it comes to the state’s bank accounts,” according to KTVN.

Apparently no one bothered to ask Gibbons when all this good stuff will happen. After all the boosterish reports had run, Las Vegas columnist Jon Ralston followed up on a little-noticed sentence in the governor’s order: “The department shall implement the Nevada Open Government Initiative as soon as practicable.” After making a few calls, Ralston found that there are no firm plans to make the state budget searchable.

“And what about the guts of the government’s spending, the so-called checkbook so we can see what the state is paying out and to whom?” Ralston wrote. “That will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to get online and searchable—so don’t expect that before the 2009 Legislature. … [A]ll it will take, ironically, is for the governor to do what he hates to do most: Spend money.”