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California Lawmakers Say Tax Returns Are Mandatory for Candidates

July 11, 2019, 6:13 PM

Gov. Gavin Newsom must decide whether presidential and gubernatorial candidates who don’t release their tax returns can appear on the California primary ballot.

The state Senate sent a bill to Newsom’s desk July 11 with a 29-10 vote requiring that the candidates release their returns from the previous five years to the Secretary of State, who would post redacted versions on the office’s website.

If the Democratic governor signs it, he would break from his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who vetoed a similar bill in 2018 because he said it could be unconstitutional. Newsom’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. He will have 10 days to sign or veto the measure.

The bill is a response to President Donald Trump’s break from years of tradition by choosing not to release his tax returns. The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee sued the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service for those returns on July 2, after Treasury denied previous requests and a subpoena.

Constitutional Muster

Sen. Mike McGuire (D), the author of S.B. 27, said he spoke with legal consultants who believe it would pass constitutional muster. States have the authority to impose ballot access conditions on the primary ballot under the U.S. and California constitutions, he said. The tax return requirement would apply to all candidates, regardless of party affiliation.

Still, McGuire and others made it clear the bill is about Trump and his break with candidates releasing their returns for the past 40 years. Democrats who voted for the bill said voters should know whether the president has conflicts of interest.

“Why does he think that he is better than every other president and he doesn’t have to do this?” said Sen. Connie Leyva (D).

The bill passed on party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif. at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeff Harrington at; Megan Pannone at

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