Trump Taxes

FILE - In a Sunday, July 7, 2019 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J. resident Donald Trump's New York state tax returns could be given to Congress under a new law in his home state. The measure was signed into law Monday, July 7, 2019 by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

ALBANY — The heads of three congressional committees can now seek to acquire President Donald Trump's New York tax filings under a measure approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Monday.

Cuomo, a Democrat who has been a vocal critic of Trump and his tax and immigration policies, said the new legislation is designed to ensure that "no one is above the law."

The law could add to the legal complications surrounding Trump's state and federal returns.

He has refused to provide them to congressional committees. And last week he tweeted that members of his family face costly legal bills due to an investigation being waged by state Attorney General Letitia James into the Trump Foundation, a registered charity in New York that was set up before the president was elected in 2016.

A personal lawyer for Trump, Jay Sekulow, brushed off the legislation, saying it amounted to "more presidential harassment," an argument echoed by state GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy.

Langworthy told CNHI that he expects the legislation, once tested in court, will be deemed unconstitutional, noting it is improper to craft legislation aimed at a specific person.

It appeared doubtful that the legislation will have any immediate impact in peeling away the secrecy surrounding Trump's taxes.

In Washington, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, has already signaled he wants access to Trump's federal returns, not his state tax documents. Neal commenced a federal lawsuit last week to get access to the federal returns. Trump is a native New Yorker whose business portfolio includes hotels, commercial real estate and resorts.

By signing the legislation, Cuomo managed to inject himself into the national dialogue over Trump's refusal to share his tax information, noted Grant Reeher, director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University.

"This represents a new escalation in the level of political polarization that we're seeing," with states taking an active role in differing with the Trump administration, Reeher said.

The new law, which amends existing tax statutes, authorizes the sharing of New York tax returns filed by top government officials at the federal, state and local levels with a congressional tax committee that certifies it needs the records for a "legitimate task" of Congress, said Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, a bill sponsor.

"As the home state of Donald Trump, New York has a special role to play to help avoid a constitutional crisis between the President and Congress in their effort to obtain his tax returns," Hoylman said. "But this legislation is bigger than one person or one president."

The law directs that state tax officials to scrub any information, such as home address, that would amount to a privacy invasion from any materials before they are released to Congress.

It limits the potential recipients of the returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

One of the main themes of Cuomo's re-election campaign last year was the governor's allegation that Trump's tax policy harmed the New York economy by capping the deduction on federal return for state and local property taxes. Cuomo also regularly lambasted his GOP challenger, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro as a "Trump Mini-Me."

Trump, in turn, has suggested that Cuomo's policies have caused population shrinkage in the upstate region.

Though state lawmakers are in recess until January, political sniping has not subsided at the statehouse. On Monday, Langworthy traveled to Albany to blast Cuomo's decision to appoint Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the New York Democratic Party, to a new committee charged with setting up a system for the public financing of campaigns.

Langworthy likened the situation to putting the "fox in charge of the henhouse."

Jacobs, from Nassau County, told the Long Island newspaper Newsday that he brings "a good amount of experience to the commission."

Two appointments to the commission by GOP legislative leaders also have backgrounds in partisan politics. Kimberly Galvin was a former chief of staff for the Assembly Republican conference while David Previte was former chief counsel to state Senate Republicans. But neither Galvin nor Previte had held a top party post.

  

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com