Mary Ann Nowlin introduced Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser at the Chamber Luncheon Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 7 in Natchitoches.
Nungesser spoke to Chamber members about the flood in South Louisiana, cuts to the budget, upcoming opportunities for tourism and arts programs. After the state was hit with two floods, the one in March and the most recent one in August, Nungesser is working with Volunteer Louisiana.
In 1993, Volunteer Louisiana was established in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor to rekindle the spirit of service and citizenship in the state. Nungesser continues the commitment to service in Louisiana. Because over 80 percent of people had no flood insurance because their homes weren’t in flood zones, “If it rains on your home, your in a flood zone.”Nothing is sacred when the flood waters begin to rise.
With $11 million in cuts to his budget this year, Nungesser said the Lt. Governor’s budget has been cut 50 percent over the last 10 years. He’s sat with Governor John Bel Edwards two weeks after the election and told him there’s a need for them to work together for what’s in the best interest of the state.
What’s in the best interest of the state is taking advantage of opportunities for economic development and finding self-sustaining streams of income to take the burden off the backs of the tax payers.
“We have think outside the box,” he said.
A few ways to do this that he mentioned include:
•Open a coffee shop in the state library, which could cover the costs of operating the library
•Form a foundation to raise revenue for cultural recreation, historical sites and state parks
•Build a conference center on a 500 acre tract of land next to Lake Pontchartrain near Fontainebleau State Park, which would bring millions to the foundation
•Sell building in French Quarter for development, which would pay into the foundation
“There isn’t anything we won’t consider,” said Nungesser. “But we’ll make sure it won’t affect local businesses negatively.”
Something near and dear to his heart is the arts programs in the state. They’ve been zeroed out in the past, but he said his office will continue to fund programming out of the tourism budget.
“Our arts programs across the state are hurting,” he said. “It’s a crime not to nourish and grow the talent we have here.”
Overall, Nungesser said it’s the people that make visitors to Louisiana feel like they’re welcome here.
“It’s the people that sell Louisiana,” he said. “It’s their love and passion that makes the state so unique.”