Lt. governor warns of budget cuts’ significant blow to tourism

Published 1:14 am Wednesday, June 15, 2016

VIDALIA — Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser visited Vidalia Tuesday to speak about the possible effects of state budget cuts on the local tourism economy.

Nungesser spoke Tuesday at the Concordia Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Vidalia Convention Center.

Nungesser spoke of his office’s struggles to maintain the state’s tourist attractions with an ever-shrinking budget.

Email newsletter signup

By the state’s constitution, the lieutenant governor of Louisiana also serves as commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

He said the Legislature would likely cut funding to state libraries, museums and parks, which are managed by his office, by 15 percent in the upcoming budget.

“Everybody’s got to give a little bit this year,” Nungesser said, but the cuts are a “devastating blow” to his office.

Concordia Chamber of Commerce President Josh Wilson said his organization is concerned about the local affect of the state’s budget cuts on area resources such as the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday and the Concordia Parish Library.

“Some of them could be closed or cut and that could affect personnel and what we’re able to do,” Wilson said. “That’s going to affect people in our parish possibly, if they continue with the cuts.”

In order to facilitate a partnership with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Nungesser said he promised not to run for governor of Louisiana in the next election.

“Every governor has cut the lieutenant governor’s budget, the only natural thing is because of the political competition there,” Nungesser said. “We feel like at least we’re sitting down talking about the importance of tourism and the state parks and things under the office of the lieutenant governor.”

He and Edwards were both installed in January.

Nungesser said many state-funded parks and libraries might face closure if the budget cuts are passed, but his office is trying to find money to keep state-funded tourist locations open.

“We’re looking at private-public partnerships, naming rights,” Nungesser said. “We’re thinking outside the box and doing anything we can do so we don’t have to keep going to the taxpayers to keep these places open.”

Many of the locations under his jurisdiction, Nungesser said, are in a state of disrepair because of years of underfunding.

“If grass is a little high, it’s because of those cuts,” he said. “My job to make sure legislators throughout the state understand the importance of those programs.”

The appearance of the state’s attractions can have a real effect on tourism, he said.

“We need (visitors) leaving saying to their friends and family, you’ve got to go see this beautiful state,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important to put our assets in tip-top shape.”

Wilson said he was pleased the lieutenant governor could visit the parish and establish a relationship.

“It’s always good to meet with our high-level delegations as well as the lieutenant governor and anybody who will come to share with our community about the things going on in the state,” Wilson said. “We’re one state, but we’re also a small, tight-knit community.”