ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law Monday authorizing the release of state tax returns to a handful of congressional committees, opening a new avenue for Democrats to get their hands on some of President Donald Trump’s closely guarded finances.
“Tax secrecy is paramount — the exception being for bonafide investigative and law enforcement purposes,” Cuomo said in a release. “By amending the law enforcement exception in New York State tax code to include Congressional tax-related committees, this bill gives Congress the ability to fulfill its Constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system and ensure that no one is above the law.”
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The law allows the state Department of Taxation and Finance to share returns of top federal, state or local government officials — though not private citizens — with three congressional committees that have jurisdiction over tax matters at the request of their respective chair.
Proponents of the new law argue that because Trump has been a lifelong New Yorker, his state return would largely mirror the federal tax documents he has thus far shielded from public view. The law excludes information directly shared by the IRS on state forms, such as itemized income, to comply with federal confidentiality rules as well as other privacy protections for social security numbers and a person’s home address.
“This is a momentous step in upholding the principle that top elected officials have a responsibility to be more transparent and accountable,” Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains), a tax attorney who authored the legislation, said on Twitter Monday morning.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), whose district abuts but does not include Trump Tower, was the sponsor in the upper chamber.
“This is more Presidential harassment,” Jay Sekulow, counsel to the president, said in an email. “We will respond to this as appropriate.”
The House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation can make requests for New York state tax returns. While House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), a longstanding Trump critic, has backed the proposal, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has thus far focused on obtaining the Trump’s tax returns by other means — including suing last week in federal court to enforce a subpoena ignored by the Trump administration.
It’s just the latest broadside from Empire State Democrats against the president. The state attorney general’s office, now headed by Tish James, has opened multiple probes into Trump’s businesses and charitable dealings, including the forced shutdown of the Trump Foundation in December 2018.
James’ office also successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court to temporarily block the addition of a controversial citizenship question onto the 2020 census, leading the Commerce Department to begin printing the decennial survey without the question — leaving Trump fuming and scrambling federal officials to seek a last-ditch workaround.
The Legislature has also passed a bill that would decouple state and federal law in a way that would allow state prosecutors to bring charges against individuals who have received presidential pardons. That bill, NY A6653 (19R), has not yet been sent to the governor for his signature.
Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report.
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