Our View: Web site helps California identify wasteful government spending

One of the biggest mistakes Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made in his first year as governor was reneging on his promise to restructure state government.

He quickly found that it wasn't easy to battle the political establishment, which would do just about anything to protect the inefficient status quo.

Vowing to "blow up the boxes" on the state's massive organization chart, Schwarzenegger commissioned hundreds of state employees working with outside analysts to compile thousands of recommendations for saving money and making government more efficient.

The process, as well as the final report, was flawed. But many of the ideas that came out of the process were worth pursuing.

Yet the Democratic Party leaders who controlled the Legislature were determined to do the bidding of public employee unions that stood to lose ground under the reform proposals.

This powerful coalition of lawmakers and special interests pronounced the work "dead on arrival" in the Legislature.

Schwarzenegger, afraid he would lose, shrank from the fight and withdrew the report from consideration. It was a weakness that the governor showed way too soon and the Democrats gained confidence in battling the popular governor.

Now, desperate to save money as state tax revenues collapse, Schwarzenegger is once again looking for efficiencies in government.

It was time that he did more to solicit solid ideas from state workers and others with intimate knowledge of government workings.

To his credit, the governor has stepped up to the challenge, and promised to open an Internet channel for money-saving tips on his state Web site.

He said employees, or anyone else, would be free to submit suggestions using their names or anonymously.

Now that money-saving portal is up and running. It is known as "waste watchers," and can be found at www.wastewatchers.ca.gov.

The governor promises that each suggestion will be read and investigated.

We have frequently reminded our readers that with the state facing a $24.3 billion shortfall in a $90 billion budget, deep cuts in services or new sources of revenue are ultimately going to be part of the solution.

There is simply not enough "waste, fraud and abuse" to wipe out such a massive deficit.

But this is a very good idea. Government should be doing all it can to eliminate waste and modernize its operations at all times.

This isn't something you only do in bad economic times.

It would have been good if Schwarzenegger had reached out to state employees in this fashion on his first day in office. It may have helped him in his relations with state workers.

But we are pleased that he is doing it now, and we urge anyone with ideas to save money to log onto "waste watchers."