(BROOKLYN, New York): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, earlier this week signed a bill that would give certain members of Congress access to President Donald Trump’s New York state tax returns.
The bill, which Cuomo had been expected to sign, requires New York officials to release tax returns of public officials that have been requested by “congressional tax-related committees” that have cited “specified and legitimate legislative purpose” in seeking them.
“This bill gives Congress the ability to fulfill its Constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system, and ensure that no one is above the law,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “Tax secrecy is paramount — the exception being for bona fide investigative and law enforcement purposes.”
The tax bill, which was passed weeks ago by the Democratically controlled State Assembly and Senate, makes it easier for New York to turn over the state tax returns of certain public office-holders, along with entities those people control or have a large stake in, that are requested by the leaders of the three congressional tax-writing committees.
“It’s a momentous day for transparency in government, especially when it comes to holding elected officials more accountable,” David Buchwald, a state Assemblyman who sponsored the legislation said.
The laws in place prior to Cuomo’s signing of the bill generally bar the release of tax returns, and the congressional panels — the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation — could file a request with the state only after efforts to gain access to federal tax filings through the Treasury Department had failed. The bill is seen as a clear shot at the president, who has refused to release his tax returns. But it’s been met with resistance from the one Democrat who could actually utilize it.
Opponents of the legislation criticized it as “political,” with one Republican assemblyman, Doug Smith, saying in May as the legislation was being debated that lawmakers were “using this body as a weapon against” Trump. Meanwhile, Cuomo could act soon on another bill that takes aim at President Trump. That legislation would allow state prosecutors to pursue charges against certain people even if they had received a presidential pardon. Trump has spoken about the possibility of pardoning those accused or convicted of crimes stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.