Thanks to state budget cuts, Louisiana’s welcome mat has just gotten smaller.
Although Louisiana’s economy depends heavily on tourism, the state budget recently approved by the Legislature and the governor has meant significant cutbacks for the state’s museums and historic sites. Beginning Aug. 1, historic sites across the state no longer will be open on Mondays and Tuesdays. State money once budgeted for maintenance and repair of state parks will now be used to operate the parks. State parks and historic sites are operated by the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, which is overseen by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
Meanwhile, a system of museums administered by Secretary of State Tom Schedler also is tightening its belt. Visiting hours at many of those museums also will be reduced.
Reduced access to any of our state’s cultural attractions is regrettable. In spite of these budget austerities, we hope state historic properties will be properly maintained. State government has a special obligation to be a prudent steward of these properties so they will survive intact for future generations.
We hope the budget challenges facing state museums and historic sites prompt some deep reflection among the state officials who operate these sites. Even before the latest budget cuts, historic sites here and across the country faced challenges in attracting patrons. These sites must be curated and promoted in a way that makes them relevant to more tourists.
With resources so scarce, should state government have two sets of museums ? one administered by the lieutenant governor, the other overseen by the secretary of state? This arrangement was inspired more by political expedience than efficiency, yet the status quo endures.
We also must wonder how much thought was given to the long-term funding needs of some of these museums before they were constructed. Many of the smaller museums around the state have relatively low attendance. What’s their long-term viability, even after the state budget climate improves?
We hope these questions are being asked among those who manage these institutions. They also should be asked of all the candidates in the upcoming races for lieutenant governor and secretary of state.