Legislation originally proposed by Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains) that will allow three congressional committees to request President Donald Trump’s New York State tax returns became law on Monday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the New York TRUST Act, which now permits the state to cooperate with congressional investigations by furnishing the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation the New York tax return of any state or federal elected official or local elected official from a municipality with a population of at least 50,000.
Buchwald, a chief sponsor of the legislation along with state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), said the measure is in step with the tradition of states cooperating with congressional inquiries.
“It’s our system of government, checks and balances that involves states responding when there is a dispute between different levels of the federal government,” he said.
Buchwald’s original version of the bill proposed in 2017 would have made any statewide elected official’s state tax return public. However, that was blocked by the Republican-led state Senate at the time.
In order for New York State to play a role, an official would have had to file a state return, he said.
Advocates of government transparency applauded the new law on Monday, saying that it will allow New York do its part in ensuring that the roughly 50-year tradition of candidates releasing their tax returns remains strong in New York.
“Every presidential candidate since Richard Nixon has released his or her tax returns, except Donald Trump,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York. “Americans have the right to know if the President is putting his business empire, or the interests of the public, first.”
“By signing the TRUST Act into law, Governor Cuomo has put the legal and administrative power of our state behind the simple principle that no person is above the law,” added Michael Kink, executive director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition. “At a time when President Trump is trampling legal and constitutional norms, our state lawmakers have strengthened the hand of Congress in their investigations of corruption and malfeasance.”
The state Republican Party, however, issued a statement Monday from its chairman, Nick Langworthy, condemning the law while strongly suggesting that it will face a legal challenge.
“This law is nothing more than presidential harassment,” Langworthy’s statement read. “Today Andrew Cuomo and Albany Democrats are using it to go after President Trump, but tomorrow it could be any New Yorker. It will never stand up in the courts and they will once again be exposed for wasting precious taxpayer resources on their never-ending partisan witch hunt.”
Buchwald, a tax attorney, said the law is not a temporary measure and will be on the books when there is a Democratic president and either one or both houses of Congress are in Republicans hands.
He said he understands why the state Republican Party would prefer to have New York be a bystander on the matter but the state legislature has a responsibility to empower the federal legislature when the people of New York support doing so.
The assemblyman also mentioned that the law will stand up to legal scrutiny.
“I am confident that the courts will recognize that New York State has the full authority when it comes to New York State tax returns,” Buchwald said.