An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Troy Singleton and Paul Moriarty to restore the tradition of transparency typically honored by presidential candidates by requiring any future presidential and vice presidential candidates to submit their tax returns to the State Division of Elections in order to run on New Jersey's ballot.
"Donald Trump has eschewed at least 40 years of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, raising an untold number of questions and possible ethical dilemmas," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "Making the returns public would clear up any questions about whether a candidate is indebted to any foreign states or accepting any emoluments from them. This is an issue of national security as well as transparency. If Congress is unwilling to address this, hopefully other states will follow our lead."
"Beyond simply the issue of transparency, there are many reasons why a presidential or vice presidential candidate should release their tax returns, reasons that can hold grave consequences for our nation," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Voters deserve to be armed with the whole truth before they make such a weighty decision. Since the Republican leadership in Congress is unwilling to do anything about it, we will take matters into our own hands in New Jersey."
Under the bill (A-4520), in order for a candidate for President or Vice-President of the United States to have their names printed on New Jersey's ballot, they must submit their federal income tax returns to the State Division of Elections for at least the five most recent taxable years for which the candidate has filed such a return with the Internal Revenue Service.
"Nearly every day it seems new ethical questions are raised over the business dealings of the President and his family," said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). "At this point there's no way of knowing if the President is operating above the law because there is no way to discern if any of his business dealings violate constitutional or ethical clauses. This is unacceptable and should not be allowed to happen again."
Under the bill, each candidate would also submit written consent to the division for the public disclosure of the income tax returns. The income tax returns and the written consent for disclosure must be filed with the division no later than 50 days before the general election.
The division would then post the income tax returns on its website no later than seven days after the candidate has filed the income tax returns with the division. The bill requires the division, in consultation with the Attorney General, to redact any information contained in the income tax returns that the division deems necessary before the division posts the income tax returns on its website.
The bill was amended by the committee to specify that electors cannot cast their electoral college vote for candidates who have not disclosed their tax return information.
The legislation was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.