Editorials

Releasing tax information gives Newsom a jump on high-office hopefuls

By releasing his tax returns, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom made a significant move toward transparency, something other candidates for governor and other high office should do.
By releasing his tax returns, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom made a significant move toward transparency, something other candidates for governor and other high office should do. Associated Press

Regardless of whether California voters elect him governor next year, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was right to quickly set a standard of transparency by voluntarily providing reporters access to his tax returns.

For that Newsom deserves praise. All candidates for high office should do the same.

Those returns, released to The Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times, and others, show Newsom and his wife, actress-filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, earned an average of $1.45 million a year during a six-year period from 2010 and 2015.

They paid 26 percent in federal income taxes, 9.5 percent in state taxes and an average of 6.8 percent annually to charities, The Bee’s Christopher Cadelago reports. It’s not Donald Trump-level money. But voters can be assured that the Newsoms have paid taxes and given significant amounts to charities, which cannot be said with certainty about the president.

Combined with the annual statements of economic interest that he must file under state law, the public can get a detailed sense about the sources of Newsom’s outside income. He certainly has done well while in office, making money from a book, a television show, selling silver and from the PlumpJack Group of restaurants, hotels and wineries. His state salary is $142,577

By becoming the first gubernatorial candidate to release his returns, he can put to rest early details about his personal finances.

Treasurer John Chiang, another Democratic candidate for governor, intends to release some of his tax returns soon, as does Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Los Angeles mayor and Assembly speaker. Newsom and Chiang have been in public office continuously for years. So their personal finances are fairly straight-forward. Villaraigosa has been a consultant since leaving the mayor’s office in 2013.

Without a doubt, Newsom saw political advantage in acting early to unveil his tax returns. He could do nothing less after having repeatedly pestered President Trump to divulge his tax returns, something the president refuses to do.

Trump proved that refusing to release tax returns is not a prerequisite to winning office. Similarly, Jerry Brown won the governor’s office in 2010 without releasing his returns.

We doubt the constitutionality of legislation proposed in many states, California included, to compel presidential candidates to release their tax returns. But candidates who hold top office exert significant control over voters’ lives. Voters ought to demand that candidates seeking high office are open about their financial affairs.

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