California Governor Vetoes Presidential Tax Return Bill

Daily Tax Report: State provides authoritative coverage of state and local tax developments across the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, tracking legislative and regulatory updates,...

By Laura Mahoney

California won’t block presidential candidates from the statewide ballot if they don’t release their tax returns.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed a bill Oct. 15 that would have required presidential candidates to release the most recent five years of income tax returns. S.B. 149 by Sen. Mike McGuire (D) was a reaction to President Donald Trump’s refusal to release his returns during the 2016 election.

In his veto message, Brown said he recognized the attractiveness and merits of getting Trump’s returns, but he didn’t want individual states to start regulating presidential elections.

“First, it may not be constitutional,” Brown said. “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?”

More than 20 states have introduced legislation this year to compel the disclosure of tax documents from presidential candidates. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed New Jersey’s bill on the matter May 1, the only other bill to pass a state legislature.

Democratic System

Brown said a qualified candidate’s ability to appear on the ballot is fundamental to the country’s democratic system, and he didn’t want to move toward “an ever escalating set of differing state requirements for presidential candidates.”

According to a legislative staff analysis, the bill was likely to be challenged in court on constitutional grounds if it became law.

McGuire argued during debate on the bill that the California governor, state lawmakers, city council members, school board members, and special services district officials must comply with a stricter conflict of interest law than the U.S. president. He said Trump inspired the bill, but the party affiliation of a candidate doesn’t matter.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer McLoughlin at

For More Information

More information about the bill is available at

Copyright © 2017 Tax Management Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Daily Tax Report: State