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New York passes bill giving Congress a way to get Trump’s state tax returns

New York passes bill giving Congress a way to get Trump’s state tax returns

Bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York passes bill giving Congress a way to get Trump’s state tax returns
Mick Mulvaney, left, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Capitol Hill, in Washington, May 22, 2019.
Photographer: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

ALBANY — Even before he was elected president, Donald Trump had steadfastly refused to release his federal tax returns, bucking years of tradition among presidential candidates. His intransigence deepened once he entered the White House, defying a congressional subpoena for the tax records.

Now, however, a nine-page workaround by the New York State Legislature may serve as a way for Congress to get its hands on a trove of Trump’s tax information.

On Wednesday, the Democratic-led Legislature passed a bill that would permit New York state tax officials to hand over Trump’s state returns to any one of three congressional committees. Such returns — filed in New York, the president’s home state and business headquarters — would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns.

The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a third-term Democrat and regular critic of Trump’s policies and behavior.

While lawmakers in the state Assembly and Senate hailed their action as a victory for states’ rights, there were still numerous questions as to whether the president and his legal team would fight the effort to get Trump’s state returns. Republicans here and elsewhere have already called the effort in Albany a “bill of attainder,” aimed at a single person, while also decrying the potential invasion of privacy, ripe for improper “fishing expeditions” by federal officials.

Steven M. Rosenthal, a tax lawyer and senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said he would not be surprised if the president fought the state law, though he believed it passed legal muster.

“Of course, the Legislature was motivated by Donald Trump’s current refusals,” Rosenthal said, but added that he thought the bill was written broadly enough to avoid the “bill of attainder” accusation.

Lawmakers took steps to safeguard the bill from legal challenges, amending the wording so that it covered an array of public officials, federal executive branch employees and political party leaders.

Under the legislation, the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance would be permitted to release returns to the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose.”

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