Presidential tax return requirement passes state Senate

  • By Tom James The Associated Press
  • Thursday, March 14, 2019 1:30am
  • News

By Tom James

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — A proposal inspired by President Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns has advanced in Washington state.

A bill in the state Legislature would require candidates to release five years of returns before they could appear on either the primary or general election ballot in the state.

Senators approved the bill on a 28-21 vote Tuesday, sending it to the House.

“Although releasing tax returns has been the norm for about the last 40 years in presidential elections, unfortunately we’ve seen that norm broken,” said bill sponsor Sen. Patty Kuderer, a Bellevue Democrat, during debate Tuesday. Kuderer later confirmed she was referring to Trump.

How a candidate has handled their own financial affairs and personal investments are relevant details for voters choosing a commander-in-chief, Kuderer added.

“It’s become part of the vetting process,” Kuderer said later.

Kuderer’s proposal would apply only to candidates for president and vice president.

Presidents as far back as Richard Nixon have released their tax returns either during their campaigns or after being elected.

Trump initially promised to release his returns, but then reversed himself, pointing to an audit by the Internal Revenue Service, although experts and IRS officials have said audits don’t prohibit taxpayers from releasing their own returns.

Trump’s tax returns would contain information on his sources of income, how much he earned, and any strategies he used to reduce his tax bill.

But critics warned enacting the Washington proposal would invite an expensive legal fight, politicize the administration of elections, and put the state in an untenable position if a candidate defied the rule.

“We’re on really risky ground when we’re trying to place conditions on a federal election,” said Sen. Hans Zeiger, a Republican from Puyallup.

Some also expressed a deeper unease with forcing candidates into transparency, and warned legislators could see the same expectation turned back on themselves in future elections.

“I just don’t understand why in the world you would promote something that would connote that there’s something suspicious about the activities of our elected officials,” said Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla.

At least 25 states have proposed similar bills in recent years according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, spurring wide debate over whether states have the Constitutional authority to make such rules.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states cannot add to the qualifications of senators and congressional representatives outlined in the Constitution.

But legal experts have said the law is at least partly unclear, because the Constitution also gives states the power to set rules for how presidential elections are held within their borders.

In an advisory letter issued before Tuesday’s vote, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Solicitor General Noah Purcell told lawmakers they thought the proposal was legal.

“The disclosure requirement you propose is likely Constitutional,” the pair wrote.

But the pair added in the same letter that because of the many possible interpretations of the law, if it passed the bill “would definitely be challenged in court.”

In addition to requiring candidates to turn over their tax returns, the bill would also direct the Secretary of State to post them publicly.

New Jersey lawmakers approved a similar measure in 2017, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it, calling it a political stunt.

More in News

Chris Johnson of Nordland-based Nordland Construction loads traffic drums onto a trailer as coworker Robert Bufford prepares to secure the load as the pair prepares to open the parking lot at Port Angeles City Pier to automobiles on Friday. The work was part of a project to improve storm drainage, replace damaged sidewalks and ADA ramps and mitigate shoreline erosion around the lot, which had been closed since early January. Tree replacement and other project detail work is expected to follow over the next few weeks.
City Pier parking open

Chris Johnson of Nordland-based Nordland Construction loads traffic drums onto a trailer… Continue reading

Sequim Citizen of the Year luncheon on Tuesday

Emiko Brock, Labbe, Olsen to be honored

EYE ON THE PENINSULA: Broadband, public health before county boards

Government meetings across North Olympic Peninsula

A pair of Clallam Transit buses sit at The Gateway Transit Center in Port Angeles in preparation for their fixed-route runs on Thursday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Clallam Transit sees large rise in ridership

No issues seen with new zero-fare policy

Plans move ahead for Quilcene skate park

Jefferson County, volunteers seek grants

Peninsula College Foundation reports record levels of giving

Programs, students both recipients of funds

County to repave section of Carlsborg Road

Clallam County commissioners will consider awarding a contract for… Continue reading

A paving crew from Lakeside Industries replaces pavement on the Waterfront Trail and the entrance to the Port Angeles City Pier parking lot on Wednesday as part of a project to improve sidewalks and storm water drainage around the site. The project is expected to be substantially completed and the parking lot reopened by mid-March. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Port Angeles City Pier

A paving crew from Lakeside Industries replaces pavement on the Waterfront Trail… Continue reading

Port Townsend approves utility rate changes, renames skate park

Public hearing set for Transportation Benefits District

Slate of initiatives has upended Olympia, lobbyist says

‘Potential showstoppers’ described at Coffee with Colleen

Artist Chris Stevenson, who described herself as an urban sketcher from Port Townsend, uses a pencil for scale as she sketches the work at the new entrance to Point Hudson Marina on Monday morning. A group in town, the Port Townsend Urban Sketchers will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday to sketch at the Port Townsend Aero Museum. Sessions are free and open to sketchers of all skill levels. For more information, see (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Marina art

Artist Chris Stevenson, who described herself as an urban sketcher from Port… Continue reading