New York state Democrats launched a new effort Monday to pave the way for the release of President Trump’s state tax returns – a move New York’s GOP chairman called “ludicrous,” “partisan” and illegal.
Under New York tax law, it is illegal to share someone’s state tax return information.
But on Monday, state Sen. Brad Hoylman introduced S5072, which would amend the law and require the commissioner of taxation and finance “to cooperate with investigations by certain committees of the United States Congress under certain circumstances” – a bid to let the state share tax return information, specifically Trump’s, with congressional committees that request it.
“This new bill will permit New York State to comply with requests from congressional investigative committees and help ensure Congress can’t be blocked in their attempts to hold even the highest elected officials in the land accountable to the American people,” Hoylman said in a statement.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the bill could help Congress get tax returns if blocked at the federal level – an apparent reference to an effort by another House committee to get six years of Trump’s returns directly from the IRS.
“This legislation would make the work of a federal committee a little easier, if confronted with inability to receive the federal tax return, we can turn to New York State,” Nadler said.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday” that Democrats will “never” see the president’s tax returns, “nor should they.”
Ed Cox, the chairman of the New York State Republican Party, called the latest legislation from New York Democrats “ludicrous.”
“This is so political, so aimed at Donald Trump no matter how they disguise it otherwise,” said Cox, who predicted the issue will go all the way to the Supreme Court. “I suspect it will be ruled to violate equal protection laws and be deemed a bill of attainder.”
A bill of attainder is an unconstitutional legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial. Cox argues the Democratic majority and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are trying to change the law for political gain.
“They are trying to re-litigate the 2016 election. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome and in the process, they aren’t doing the business of the people of New York state. Instead they are playing politics including the governor, who is running hard to be president,” Cox said.
“Transparency and disclosure is vital, but tax return privacy is also important and we should not politicize the process -- however Governor Cuomo believes elected officials on all levels should be prepared to release their taxes if they enter public service and he would include state and local, as well as federal officials, in any legal revision,” said Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo.
The governor has said he will not make a 2020 presidential run and has said former Vice President Joe Biden has the “best case” among the Democratic contenders. But in a profile in The Atlantic, Cuomo suggested that “if” Biden chooses not to run, he could throw his hat in the ring.
The push for S5072 follows the January introduction of a bill by New York Assemblyman David Buchwald that requires the disclosure of tax returns by statewide elected officials including the president.
On the steps of the state capitol in Albany, Buchwald and Hoylman touted that legislation, the New York Truth Act, as critical.
“Why is it important that we have access to the president’s tax returns? It is because those tax returns reveal conflicts and potential conflicts of interest. They show whether the president has been in full compliance with our tax laws and they also show what the implications are to him of proposals he makes to amend the tax laws in this country,” Buchwald, a former tax attorney, said at the press conference.
While similar efforts have failed in the past, state Democrats suggest this year’s could gain traction. Buchwald said 93 Assembly members and a majority 32 state senators support the Truth Act.
“There is a copy of President Trump’s tax returns right here in New York state in an office somewhere, and the only thing that prevents that state income tax return from being made public is a state statute that we in the state legislature should have the power to amend,” Buchwald said.
Trump has shown little interest in turning over the documents, as the White House braces for a fight.
“We’re under audit, despite what people said, and we’re working that out—I’m always under audit, it seems, and I’ve been under audit for many years because the numbers are big. ... But until such time as I’m not under audit, I would not be inclined to do that,” Trump told reporters last week.