- Associated Press - Thursday, January 17, 2019

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine’s governor credits late novelist Kurt Vonnegut with her vision for a new state office dedicated to the future.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said Thursday she’s tapping former state House Speaker Hannah Pingree to pioneer an Office of Innovation and the Future.

Mills said she’s following advice from Vonnegut, who once noted no cabinet ever had a “secretary of the future.”

Mills said the initiative would bring together state agencies to research, develop and follow-up on long-term strategies on issues from workforce development, to the opioid crisis, to climate change. Pingree, a Democrat and daughter of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, will draw up the plan in coming months and seek legislative approval.

Mills described her proposal as a “think tank” approach to big issues in a rural state facing an aging workforce. She said federal dollars could help fund the office.

“The time has come to begin investing in our future,” Mills said. “And that begins with planning and with welcoming all kinds of innovation.”

Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage in 2012 transformed Maine’s decades-old planning office into an office tasked with finding savings across state government.

Maine’s renewed effort comes as other state governments are considering how to plan for the future, according to Timothy Blute, who’s led the National Governors Association’s program focused on the future since its founding in 2017.

Several efforts are focused on using technology to make state governments more efficient, Blute said.

Last year, North Dakota hired a former Amazon employee as its first “chief reinvention officer” tasked with making state government more data-driven. New Jersey also hired its own first chief innovation officer, while Ohio’s lieutenant governor is set to take the lead on innovating the state’s government and workforce.

“The art and science of governing at a state level is going to become more complicated over the next decade or two,” said Future Today Institute Founder Amy Webb.

That ranges from advances in cybersecurity, 5g wireless technology, artificial intelligence and automation, according to Webb, also a professor at New York University Stern School of Business.

Blute said it’s important for states to prepare for, rather than react to, changes brought about by technology. That includes displaced workers, shifting tax bases and new demands from businesses.

“You need to have someone to help think about what are those issues that are going to be coming around the corner,” Blute said.

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