- Associated Press - Monday, April 8, 2019

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Democrats in the New York Legislature are again pushing legislation that would require statewide elected officials in New York - including the president of the United States - to disclose their state income tax returns.

Assemblyman David Buchwald, of Westchester, and Sen. Brad Hoylman, of Manhattan, have introduced the measure in Albany, where they held a rally at the state Capitol on Monday to talk about their effort as a debate over Republican President Donald Trump’s taxes intensifies in Washington.

On Sunday, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said congressional Democrats will “never” see Trump’s tax returns. Mulvaney’s comment came after U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, asked the IRS to provide six years of Trump’s personal tax returns and the returns for some of his businesses.

“As April 15 approaches, I think New Yorkers are scratching their heads, asking why is the president alone able to evade the request of Congress?” Hoylman said at the rally attended by fellow Democratic lawmakers and members of advocacy groups seeking the release of Trump’s tax returns.

Previous Albany legislation aimed at getting Trump to release his taxes was blocked in the then-Republican-controlled state Senate last year. Democrats now control the chamber thanks to gains in last November’s elections.

Buchwald said 92 members of the Democrat-controlled, 150-seat Assembly have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation. In the Senate, also controlled by Democrats, 31 of the chamber’s 63 members are co-sponsoring the measure, Hoylman said. Only one Republican in Albany is listed as a co-sponsor of the measure, Assemblyman Andrew Raia, of Long Island.

“Obviously it is a bill dominated by Democratic support, but by no means is it unique to Democrats to want President Trump to release his taxes,” Buchwald said.

Statewide elected officials currently aren’t required to release their tax returns, but such officeholders as Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been doing so for years.

Under the proposed legislation, the commissioner of the state Department of Taxes and Finances would automatically release a statewide elected official’s state tax returns for the previous five years and post the information on the agency’s website.

The measure calls for releasing the tax information 30 days after the legislation is signed into law by the governor. That means Trump’s state tax returns could be released later this year if the Legislature approves the bill before adjourning in mid-June and Cuomo signs the legislation.

Cuomo’s office said he’s against politicizing tax disclosures but at the same time supports transparency and disclosure by elected officials. The governor “believes elected official on all levels should be prepared to release their taxes,” Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said in a statement.

The measure dubbed the NY Truth Act doesn’t pertain to an official’s federal tax return, but because New York is Trump’s home state and headquarters for many of his businesses, much of the same information would appear on his state tax return.

The lawmakers pointed out that every president going back to Richard Nixon has released his tax returns. Trump should do the same, they said, so taxpayers can see if he has conflicts of interest or potential conflicts in his federal tax policies.

Ed Cox, Nixon’s-son-in law and chairman of the New York state Republican Party, said the legislation is unconstitutional and would be fought in court if enacted.

“The bill would set a dangerous precedent for infringing on the privacy rights of all citizens,” Cox said in a statement.

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This story has been corrected to show that 92 members of the Assembly have signed on as co-sponsors, not 90.

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