NEW YORK — Democrats in New York state passed a pair of bills Wednesday that would allow Congress to get hold of President Donald Trump’s state tax returns amid an escalating fight with top administration officials over access to the President’s federal returns.
The main legislation, which passed the state assembly 84 to 53, would require the state’s tax commissioner to provide New York state tax returns to Congress upon request from the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation. A second bill also passed Wednesday restricts requests to elected officials only and mandates the removal of any federal tax information that might appear on state returns.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is expected to sign the legislation.
New York Democrats have positioned the legislation as a way to hold the President accountable, despite his refusal to follow presidential precedent by releasing his federal returns. Trump still holds New York residency and his businesses are mostly headquartered there.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee earlier Wednesday that he had been advised that handing over Trump’s returns under a request from House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal would be a violation of the law, though the Washington Post reported that an internal IRS memo suggested otherwise.
“The New York State Legislature has stepped up to promote transparency while the US Treasury Department has instead denied lawful requests for tax records from the House of Representatives,” Assemblyman David Buchwald, the lead sponsor of the bill, said in a statement Wednesday. “Our state and federal governments have endured for over 200 years thanks to the system of checks and balances provided in our Constitution, and this bill is consistent with that tradition.”
The tax bill is the second move New York has made to hem in Trump this week. Legislation passed by the state assembly on Tuesday would allow state prosecutors to pursue charges against presidential associates pardoned at the federal level. That move is seen as a way to allow future prosecution of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is currently serving time for financial crimes uncovered by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Assemblyman Andy Goodell, a Republican who opposes both bills, said the Assembly should instead focus on the state’s job climate, tax burden, and opioid problems.
“We will spend a significant amount of time today on an issue that doesn’t address any of the most serious issues facing New Yorkers,” Goodell said in an interview with CNN. “Releasing New York State only tax returns to federal legislators who have no role in writing the NY State tax law at all, who don’t come from NY state but come from around the nation serves absolutely no legitimate legislative purpose.”
The New York state Senate passed its own version of the bill earlier this month.
“This President and his administration have repeatedly shown a true hostility to the rule of law and Presidential customs,” the state Senate’s top Democrat, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, told CNN in a statement when the state Senate passed the bill. “No person is above the law and New Yorkers, as well as all Americans, deserve transparency from their elected officials at every level of government.”