By Denis Slattery
Democratic lawmakers in the state capital want to help their congressional colleagues get a look at President Trump's taxes.
A bill authorizing the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to share tax return information with Congressional committees was introduced Monday by state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan).
"Donald Trump has broken 40 years of political tradition by not releasing his returns," Hoylman said. "His representatives say they will block all congressional efforts to obtain those returns through existing procedures. Well, it turns out that New York State has those returns and can do its part to assist the Congress in their oversight responsibility by releasing them to a relevant committee that requests them."
The bill, which would amend state laws prohibiting the release of private tax information, would only apply to Trump's state returns, not his federal ones. The president's New York roots and his business being based in the city means a lot of the same information would be included on his state returns, Hoylman noted.
"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," he added.
The push comes as congressional Democrats in Washington steel for a protracted battle with the White House after asking the IRS to hand over the president's tax returns by Wednesday. Administration officials have signaled Trump has no intention of complying.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, put in a formal request to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig last week asking for the president's returns from 2013 to 2018.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D- N.Y.) applauded the efforts in Albany.
"Congress is a co-equal branch of government. It is critical that to maintain trust in our government and uphold the rule of law, that we in Congress must be able to perform oversight over the executive branch," he said in a statement. "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."
Trump's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, dismissed the request for a peek at the president's federal returns from House Democrats, charging the probe sets a precedent for using the IRS for political purposes.
"What stops another party from doing the same thing?" Sekulow said on ABC's "This Week."
Though not required to make his tax returns public, Trump is the first president in modern history dating back to fellow Republican Gerald Ford, who released summaries of his taxes, to not disclose his full returns. Trump repeatedly said he was under audit during the 2016 campaign and promised to eventually comply with tradition, but has since refused to do so.
White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, vowed on Sunday that Congress will "never" see the President's returns.
"No, never," he said. "Nor should they.
"Democrats are demanding that the IRS turn over the documents. That is not going to happen, and they know it. This is a political stunt."
Hoylman and Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains) are also behind a second measure, known as the NY Truth Act, that would require tax returns going back five years filed by all statewide elected officials, including the governor, state attorney general, state comptroller, federal senators and the president, be made public.
"We're not seeking the president's cooperation. We're not looking to the IRS to turn over a copy of returns," Buchwald said. "There's a copy of President Trump's New York state 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 statute that we, the state Legislature, have the power to amend."
The effort differs from other states that have tried and so far failed to tie releasing tax returns to getting on the ballot and would go into effect 30 days after passage.
Buchwald said the bill has 93 co-sponsors in the Assembly and 32 in the Senate, meaning it has enough support in the two chambers to pass the measure, but a vote has not yet been scheduled.
One Republican, Assemblyman Andrew Raia of Long Island, is listed as a co-sponsor.
"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.
An aide to Gov. Cuomo warned against politicizing private tax returns.
"Transparency and disclosure is vital, but tax return privacy is also important and we should not politicize the process. However, Gov. 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 senior Cuomo adviser Rich Azzopardi.
(c)2019 New York Daily News