June 8, 2015 11:09 AM

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In March of 1989 the Louisiana Legislature approved a plan that was later backed by voters to implement a 4-cent gas tax increase to bankroll 16 infrastructure projects.

Since then, especially recently, the TIMED program has been met with widespread criticism that transportation priorities are not being satisfied, that it overlooks important projects and there’s not enough money to finish the original vision voters approved. Cash is actually being diverted away from the regular, rank-and-file projects to keep TIMED afloat.

How did this happen? Well, at least partly, politics are to blame. As House Transportation Chair Karen St. Germain, D-Plaquemine, explains, votes were bought to pass the TIMED program in the late 1980s when Buddy Roemer was governor.

“The first projects that were listed in TIMED were all about getting those legislators who you needed their votes to actually go and vote for it,” she said. “It was all done on the back of a napkin. There were meetings for that and that’s how it was done at the time.”

St. Germain, during her testimony before the Ways and Means Committee this month, said the legislative handlers at the time asked one question of the swing voters and handed them a pen: “What will it take to pass? Just write (a figure for your project) down and we’ll figure it out later.”

That’s how project costs were determined.

St. Germain pushed HB 778 this session, which fell short of the two-thirds vote it needed on the House floor. It would have levied a new .01 cent sales tax to expire in 10 years to construct 18 projects in critical corridors across Louisiana.