In what could well be described as a direct shot at President Trump’s reelection effort, California’s state Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would require presidential candidates to release five years of income tax returns.
Any candidate who doesn’t comply with the new bill would risk being left off the primary ballot.
However, the bill and its concept are not at all new. An identical measure was passed through California’s legislature in 2017. Ironically, the bill did not become law because the state was governed at the time by a Democrat, Jerry Brown, who didn’t want to release his tax returns.
Brown said at the time, “Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?”
Brown’s description of the bill’s partisan nature would become prophetic, as it turned out. Less than two years later. state lawmakers have attempted to thwart Trump’s reelection efforts by offering the bill for approval again, this time to Governor Gavin Newsom.
Newsom, unlike Brown, has released his income tax returns – a fact that did not go unnoticed by one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Senator Mike McGuire.
“I never want to put words into his mouth, but here’s what I’ll say: Gov. Newsom has led by example.” McGuire continued, “We can all debate on the floor about the constitutionality of this bill. But we also have to look at what makes our democracy strong. The foundation of any successful government is transparency.”
Newsom’s spokesman Brian Ferguson has made it clear, however, that the bill “would be evaluated on its own merits.”
The bill, if it becomes law, would require candidates to submit their tax returns to the secretary of state’s office. Then, the secretary of state’s office would work with the candidates to redact any sensitive areas of their tax records prior to having them posted online.
Senator McGuire has made no attempt to hide the partisan nature of his bill or who in particular inspired it.
“President Trump’s refusal to release his income tax returns has broken a time-honored, bipartisan tradition which has weakened our democracy and his jaw dropping business conflicts have now put the security of our nation at risk,” McGuire said.
In late 2017, McGuire said he felt the disclosed tax returns would give all Americans an eye into the president’s dealings with foreign powers.
Voters not only deserve full disclosure of their leader’s tax returns, they should be entitled to them. If President Trump had released his tax returns we would know why he’s ignoring intelligence agencies and snuggling up to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who has been linked to the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Transparency is a nonpartisan issue and it’s time to put the speculation to bed and bring to light any conflicts of interest that could drive an American president into the arms of a foreign power. It’s time to make President Trump’s tax returns public.
Every one of the California state Senate’s ten Republicans voted against the bill, arguing that it’s unconstitutional.
If California passes the bill into law, it could soon have company. Washington State and New Jersey are considering similar measures.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn