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Tax return laws misguided

Gov. Kate Brown attracted some attention when she told a Huffington Post interviewer that she would sign a bill requiring President Trump and other presidential candidates to release their tax returns to appear on the Oregon ballot. That’s the wrong way to go about it.

Brown’s remarks came after California Gov. Gavin Newsom last month signed into law a measure requiring presidential and gubernatorial candidates to disclose five years of federal tax returns to appear on that state’s primary ballot.

We think Trump should release his returns, as every major-party presidential nominee since Gerald Ford has voluntarily done and as Trump himself promised to do if he won the election. But state-by-state restrictions on ballot access are the wrong way to accomplish that.

The Constitution lays out the requirements for the office of president, but releasing tax returns is not among them. For states to require this of candidates would in effect be adding a new requirement to seek the office, something states do not have the power to do.

Meanwhile in Congress, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., has asked for Trump’s returns under a 1924 law requiring the Treasury secretary to release them on request. In New York, a new law allows state officials to release Trump’s New York returns to Neal if he asks for them. Trump is fighting both of those attempts in court.

The best course for Brown and for the 2020 Oregon Legislature is to let the courts have their say.