It seems that State Rep. Mark Strama (D-50) has been getting credit for things he did not do.
Going to have to give you some background for this one to make sense. At the Republican convention held in Dallas in June, former party vice chairman David Barton circulated a letter to the delegation, and in it he told people that Republican Rep. Jim Keffer of Eastland had endorsed Democratic Rep. Mark Strama. PolitiFact checked out the story – voters in HD 50 will recall that Keffer’s name and a quote were on Strama’s mail pieces in 2006. Keffer, in responding to PolitiFact’s query on this, said that Strama “worked with Republicans to cut property taxes and keep our public schools open.” Moreover, in the PolitiFact piece, Strama refers to legislation on school funding that Keffer authored and Strama co-sponsored.
This is certainly news! PolitiFact, concerned only with the validity of the claim that Keffer has supported Strama in the past, ignored these statements. Fair enough. So your friendly neighborhood lege blogger decided to look into this herself, and well, it is really difficult to find where Strama was a part of any effort to cut property taxes.
Here’s what I found when looking for what these two could possibly be referring to. Strama, you’ll recall, was a freshman legislator in 2005, the big session for school finance and property tax relief. The session that went into three specials, the third one giving Texans the business franchise tax. Keffer has had no hand in any of the school finance legislation that has passed since Strama has been in office, and Strama’s name is not on any school finance legislation that I can find. HB 2 and HB 3 in 79th Reg. session (2005) were both bills that Keffer authored or co-authored, but both died during the process. In the 79th 3rd special, Rep. Chisum (R-Pampa) had a school finance bill that did pass (HB 1), but neither Keffer nor Strama were co-sponsors or co-authors. In this last session, Rep. Hochberg (D-Houston) had a school finance bill that passed (HB 3646) but again, neither Keffer nor Strama had anything to do with it.
Regarding property tax relief legislation: Right now, I can’t find where Strama did anything on property tax relief, unless Keffer was referring to HB 3 in the 79th 3rd special in 2006 – that’s the infamous business franchise tax bill. There, Keffer was a co-author, and Strama had no visible hand on the legislation. It is possible that Strama was part of unverifiable behind-the-scenes efforts to corral Democratic support, as the bill did have Democratic co-authors in Vilma Luna and Mike Villareal. It is impossible to say for sure.
The property tax relief bill from the 80th session (2007) was one that every Democrat opposed on final passage. That would be HB 2 by Rep. Chisum. Caption: “Relating to making appropriations to the Texas Education Agency for the purpose of school district property tax rate reductions and providing for the transfer of general revenue into the property tax relief fund.” The Democrats attempted to amend the bill in the House to divert the funds away from pure property tax relief, or make property tax relief contingent upon, funding for education projects that they were unable to get support for in separate legislation. Strama voted with the Democrats on each one of those amendments.
Once the bill had gone through the process, and the House and Senate had both taken the opportunity to vote on it and send it to conference committee, the House Dems all revolted and voted against the amended bill en masse. HB 2 passed the House 86 to 53. Strama was one of the 53 Democrats who voted against it.
Strama’s pattern of always supporting attempts to strip property tax relief legislation of any real teeth came up in every one of his sessions as a legislator. In addition, he voted against efforts to ease the property tax rate rollback process, and against legislation that would have made appraisal boards elected entities. Mark Strama claims to be a champion for taxpayers – and he is strangely absent when they really need him.
Claims of Mark Strama’s “bipartisan” work on property tax relief and school finance reform ring false, and prove false upon inspection. So why would Jim Keffer, a Republican, come out and support him like he did in 2006 (link to Strama mail piece courtesy PolitiFact)? The facts are there: Mark Strama was part of the general liberal Democratic effort to block or kill property tax relief.