By ISAAC MONTEROSE
New York State Senator Brad Hoylman and fellow Democratic legislators recently unveiled legislation to require any presidential and vice presidential candidate to publicly release the last five years of their tax returns no later than 50 days before the general election in order to appear on the state ballot.
They called the bill Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act (also known as the T.R.U.M.P. Act) at a press conference on the steps of City Hall.
Hoylman said that the name was not coincidental.
“It did take a very long time to come up with that acronym,” he said wryly.
If a candidate fails to produce the returns to the New York State Board of Elections in time then they’re disqualified from the ballot, a press release said. The board would also have 10 days to publicly make the returns available on its website after receiving them. The bill was first introduced by the senator in December.
A resolution for the bill has been co-signed by 28 City Council Members and similar laws have been introduced in 23 other states. Several of those states, such as Tennessee and Arizona, are deeply Republican. It also calls on the state legislature and the governor to sign the bill into law. Hoylman mentioned that he filed a motion for committee consideration on the T.R.U.M.P. Act in order to allow an “up or down vote” on the bill in the New York State Senate Election Committee.
“We live in a deliberative democracy,” Hoylman said. “In order for our democracy to function, voters need to be both educated and informed. Well, they can’t be informed if a candidate hides information from them and that’s exactly what happened in last year’s election.”
Hoylman also criticized President Trump’s refusal, both throughout the campaign and after his victory, to release his tax returns and called it “egregious” because Trump is subject to conflict of interest laws unlike the “elected officials standing here or those [in] the building behind me or those in Washington.” He added that Trump was breaking a 40-year tradition by not being forthcoming with his tax returns.
Hoylman alleged that the president owed money to Russian oligarchs, to the Mercer family (who were Republican donors who supported Trump’s campaign) and even to the Chinese.
“Bottom line is that voters need to have that information to end these conspiracy theories and to be able to vote intelligently for their candidate,” he argued. Using a poll from Public Policy Polling, Hoylman also argued that 61 percent of voters wanted Trump to release his tax returns and that 61 percent of voters also supported his specific type of legislation.
“As a famous saying goes by a Republican president: ‘Trust but verify,’” said Hoylman, referring to the famous quote from former president Ronald Reagan.
Hoylman’s fellow Democrats expressed supported for the bill with City Council Member Andrew Cohen describing it as “a tremendous opportunity to impact not only New York State but really the national debate about this issue that has obviously gotten a lot of press.” Cohen said that New Yorkers felt “so strongly about this issue” and were “offended by the lack of transparency” in last year’s presidential election. Similarly, City Council Member Mark Levine said he was pleased to lend his support to the bill and described the issue of Trump not disclosing his tax returns as a “dangerous obfuscation and a compromise of the public trust.”
“I’m so proud that the work of Senator Hoylman has ignited a national movement,” Levine said.
Photo depicting (left to right) Cohen, Holyman & Levine by Isaac Monterose