Democrats said the measure was about oversight, accountability and Trump's unwillingness...

Democrats said the measure was about oversight, accountability and Trump's unwillingness to make his returns public. Credit: AP / Jacquelyn Martin

ALBANY — New York Democrats took their first step Tuesday toward releasing President Donald Trump’s state tax returns to Congress, mapping out what they see as a way to work around the White House.

A key State Senate committee advanced a bill that would authorize the state Tax Department to release New York tax returns to a congressional committee upon request, despite spirited objections by Republicans.

The Democratic-led Senate plans to approve the measure next week. It would then be up to the overwhelmingly Democratic Assembly to follow suit, though Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) indicated the bill isn’t on the chamber’s near-term schedule at the moment.

Democrats said the bill was about oversight, accountability and Trump’s unwillingness to make his returns public, which ended a long-running tradition by presidential candidates. A state tax return could reveal much of the same information as a federal one.

“If the federal government isn’t prepared to deliver the transparency and accountability the American people deserve, New York will,” Sen. Brian Benjamin (D-Manhattan), chairman of the Senate Budget and Revenue Committee, said after the panel voted 3-2 to send the bill to the full Senate.

Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), the bill’s sponsor, said the intent wasn’t to publicly release Trump’s tax returns, but more broadly to make sure any congressional oversight committee can receive any New York tax returns it seeks. He noted that the U.S. House requested the president’s returns earlier this month, but neither the Internal Revenue Service nor the White House  has complied.

“New York state does this all the time in terms of sharing tax returns, state returns, with other states, with the IRS, with other federal departments,” Hoylman said during the Senate committee meeting.

Republicans were having none of it.

“If Congress can’t go to the IRS to get the president’s tax returns, why are we interfering?” Sen. Robert Antonacci (R-Syracuse) said.

Jumping in, Sen. James Tedisco (R-Schenectady) called the end run “sad” and suggested it could help Trump win re-election.

“This is a sad attempt to delegitimize an election and a president,” Tedisco said. “What’s the next step? Because this isn’t going to end. After you get his taxes, are you going to want to get the number of suits and where he buys them and how much it costs? … Maybe this is a gift to the people of America because you’re going to solidify his next election next year.”

The bill would authorize the release of returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation. Tedisco said it stipulates the request had to be for a “specified and legitimate legislative purpose.”

“I’m sure it’s divorced from politics,” he said sarcastically.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo could support the legislation “as long as it applies to everybody” and not just Trump, an aide said earlier this month.

The Assembly has yet to consider the bill since its introduction earlier this year. Heastie said the Democrats who control the chamber haven’t discussed it yet.

“I honestly don’t know where we are” in terms of supporting the measure, Heastie told reporters.

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