ALBANY — In an attempt to work around the White House, Democratic lawmakers in Albany are trying to do what their federal counterparts have so far failed to accomplish: to obtain President Trump’s tax returns.
Albany lawmakers are seeking state tax returns, not the federal ones at the heart of the current standoff in Washington. But a tax return from New York — the president’s home state, and the headquarters of his business empire — could likely contain much of the same financial information as a federal return.
Under a bill that is scheduled to be introduced this week, the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance would be permitted to release any state tax return requested by leaders of three congressional committees for any “specific and legitimate legislative purpose.”
The bill is the most recent proposal from New York lawmakers trying to cast light on the president’s personal finances and business dealings, but it could also open the Democratic majorities in the Legislature to charges of politicizing state law to embarrass the president ahead of his expected re-election campaign.
State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who is sponsoring the legislation, defended the bill, saying it is designed to be “a safety valve for any attempt by the White House to block the Congress from doing this at the federal level.”
“We’re creating a parallel track,” Senator Hoylman added.
The bill would amend current state laws that generally prohibit such private tax information from being released, and would cover a broad range of filings, including personal income taxes, corporation taxes and real estate transfer taxes.
The bill’s expected introduction on Monday comes even as the I.R.S. and Treasury Department in Washington are deciding whether to comply with a request last week from the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, for access under a provision of the federal tax code to six years of his federal returns by April 10.
Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer called the effort by Mr. Neal a “gross abuse of power” — an opinion that was seconded by the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who said on Sunday that Democrats would “never” see the president’s tax returns. It remains unclear if the federal tax collecting agencies will share that view.
But with New York having a Democratic-controlled Legislature, and a Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, some officials see a route to bypassing such arguments. And Mr. Hoylman said he anticipates broad support for the congressional-request bill among lawmakers in New York, one of the nation’s bluest states.
Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat who has repeatedly criticized Mr. Trump, did not respond to requests for comment about the bills seeking the release of state tax returns. The White House declined to comment on the proposal.
Republican leaders were furious at the idea that New York officials would potentially allow Democrat-led committees to see the returns.
“This is a bill of attainder, aimed at one person,” said Ed Cox, the chairman of the New York State Republican Party, adding that the maneuver was “outrageous politics,” aimed at increasing Mr. Cuomo’s political prospects.
Still, it was not clear whether the leaders of the State Senate or the State Assembly would immediately embrace such a bill; similar measures stalled in the Assembly during the last legislative session.
Mr. Hoylman said he believes the new bill’s narrow focus may ease concerns about the mass release of personal information about political figures that had caused other legislative attempts in Albany to force the release of Mr. Trump’s taxes to be sidelined. Previous efforts had also faced opposition from Republicans in the State Senate, who lost their majority in that chamber after a disastrous 2018 election cycle.
Under the new proposal, the release of tax information would require a formal request by a congressional committee, and would come only after other efforts to obtain federal tax information through the Treasury Department had failed.
Mr. Hoylman’s bill is one of at least three proposed in recent years that seek the release of Mr. Trump’s state tax returns, including legislation that he co-sponsored with Assemblyman David Buchwald, a Westchester County Democrat.
That earlier bill, known as the New York Truth Act, would require the state Department of Taxation and Finance to release five years of income tax returns from eight officials (if they earn income in New York): the president; vice president; New York’s two United States senators; and four statewide elected officials, including the governor and the state attorney general.
Most of those officials currently release or give access to their tax returns, but Mr. Buchwald said the Truth Act bill is the “most tangible, best opportunity to produce the president’s tax return.”
“Obviously, when someone fills one of these higher offices, they have to meet a higher standard,” Mr. Buchwald said, adding that such state returns would reveal “worldwide income” as well as potential conflicts of interest.
“I think it’s a good general principle for us to be promoting,” Mr. Buchwald said. The bill, first introduced in 2017, now has enough co-sponsors to pass the Assembly and Senate.
A third bill, also sponsored by Mr. Hoylman, would require candidates for president and vice president to reveal their past tax returns in order to appear on primary and general election ballots. Similar efforts are also being considered in more than a dozen other states, including California and New Jersey.
Daniel Hemel, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago who teaches tax law, said that the New York state Legislature could authorize the release of Mr. Trump’s state returns, but that knotty legal issues are at play as well, particularly because of federal laws protecting tax information. For instance, if New York were to release federal return information that is contained within the state tax return, Mr. Hemel said, the Internal Revenue Service “could conceivably cease cooperation with the state.”
Still, Mr. Hemel added, the I.R.S. would face “legal and practical obstacles if it tried to retaliate against New York,” and that “there is a lot of information on Trump’s state tax return that is not federal return information,” including New York’s adjusted gross income and his state taxes.
Under the bill to be introduced on Monday, the chairperson of three committees — the Senate Finance Committee; the House Ways and Means Committee; and the Joint Committee on Taxation — could request tax returns from the New York tax department.
Each would have to submit written requests for the information, and such requests would also have to follow a request to the United States Department of Treasury.
Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that Mr. Hoylman’s bill was a way to access the same information that his colleagues in Congress have been seeking.
“The state return, presumably, has to match the federal return,” he said, adding, “It just makes the work of the federal committee, that has a legitimate reason to look into this, a little easier to see the complete picture.”
He added that the bill would be “a pretty quick” workaround to White House opposition to releasing the president’s tax returns. “It would help vindicate the rule of law,” Mr. Nadler said.
Mr. Cuomo, who gives the media access to his annual tax returns every April (though he does not allow reporters to make copies), has expressed support for the increased release of such information by candidates for statewide and legislative office. But a proposal to do just that was not included in the final budget negotiations.
Mr. Hoylman said that the bill to be introduced on Monday was narrowly crafted to prevent “fishing expeditions” by federal lawmakers.
“This would be a very rare, but very important, use of the state’s power,” he said.