State Senator Heath Mello is none too pleased with the lack of innovation state agencies are showing.  Reports were due last Wednesday from agencies, outlining how they planned to redesign government.  But apparently, none of them took it too seriously.

Most offered ideas on how to streamline services, focusing on efficiency rather than anything about innovation.  Mello said that agencies, especially those under the governor, didn’t take the legislature’s assignment seriously.

But perhaps the state agencies are not slackers so much as the victims of poor leadership.  No, we’re not going to list every director as a Wednesday Wimp (though we have called out Carlos Castillo and Vivianne Chaumont).  We prefer to turn our attention to the least creative leader in Nebraska, Governor Heineman.

It appears more than serendipitous that agencies had to submit their 2011-2013 budget requests around the same time that these innovation proposals to the legislature were due. Most of the agencies appear to already be operating on cash strapped budgets, facing catch-22s if their funding is cut (if we trim the Attorney General’s budget, we may lose our water lawsuit with Kansas).

Facing tough budget choices and a $750 million budget shortfall, Heineman’s showing astoundingly anti-creative leadership.  He’s attacking the state’s revenue problem by insisting on more budget cuts, refusing to consider increasing revenue.

Perhaps, Heineman’s waiting for more federal stimulus money that he can criticize while using it to plug his budget holes.  Double-Talk Dave’s same old song and dance routine is as follows: cut agency budgets, refuse to consider increasing revenue, accept federal aid, criticize federal aid, twirl and repeat.  He will never make it to Broadway (or a Senate seat) with that performance.

Meanwhile, Heineman’s touting an economic report that says Nebraska has plenty of opportunities to grow business.  He still hasn’t told us what he’ll do to help foster growth which is sad because even the PowerPoint the research team assembled for him has suggestions.

According to a 2010 report by UNL’s Bureau of Business Research, Nebraska is 24th in the nation for entrepreneurial start ups.  How we’ve managed to keep unemployment rates low without fostering innovation is a mystery.  Or maybe it’s an effect we just haven’t felt yet.  Either way, it’s more evidence that Heineman isn’t an innovative leader, and there’s little hope that he’ll change his routine.

While state senators like Mello are facing fiscal dilemmas by asking fellow government leaders to step up to the plate and think outside the box, the governor’s refusing to get creative. Heineman needs to stop treating Nebraska’s government and economy like a competition of “race to the bottom.”  We recommend he take some cues from innovative leaders like Mello who use a more cooperative and style that embraces innovation and entrepreneurship.