California governor rejects tax return requirement for candidates

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Oct. 16, 2017 at 1:37 PM
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Oct. 16 (UPI) -- California Gov. Jerry Brown rejected legislation Monday requiring presidential candidates to release personal tax information before they appear on the state ballot.

The bill was passed by the state's Democratic legislature with President Donald Trump, who did not release tax records prior to his 2016 presidential victory, in mind. The veto by Brown, a Democrat who himself did not release his tax records while running for governor in 2010 and 2014, could be seen as a setback for California Democrats and advocates of open government, the website Politico reported.

The California bill called for submission of five years of tax records by anyone running on the state ballot. Other states have unsuccessfully attempted to pass similar measures.

"While I recognize the political attractiveness, even the merits, of getting President Trump's tax returns, I worry about the political perils of individual states seeking to regulate presidential elections in this manner," Brown wrote in a veto message. "First, it may not be constitutional. Second, it sets a 'slippery slope' precedent. 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?"

The bill's constitutionality was a matter of debate. The U.S. Supreme Court holds that states cannot add to the qualifications for U.S. Senate or House members. California's legislative counsel released an opinion suggesting that a tax disclosure requirement would be unconstitutional.

In vetoing the bill, Brown broke with fellow Democrats.

"For decades, every president has put their personal beliefs aside and put our country first and released their returns," state Sen. Mike McGuire, the bill's author and a Democrat, said. "The American people shouldn't be in the dark about their president's financial entanglements."

Trump cited pending audits for not revealing his tax records, making him the first presidential candidate in 40 years to withhold them. The California legislation was an effort to ensure it would not happen in 2020, should Trump run for re-election.

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