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Candidates for governor trade charges over tax returns

Marco Varisco

Update 6:25 a.m Friday

Democratic candidate Cynthia Nixon announced Friday morning that she would release her 2017 federal and state tax returns later in the day Friday. 

Original story

Marc Molinaro, the presumptive Republican candidate for governor, released his tax returns for 2017, but his opponent, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo, raised the stakes, saying his GOP challenger should release 10 years of tax returns.

Meanwhile, a third candidate, Cynthia Nixon, has filed an extension and has not made any information available yet.

Molinaro and his wife, Corinne Adams, earned $174,048 last year, the bulk of it from his salary as Dutchess County executive. They paid $24,573 in taxes.

They received $27,000 in rent from a second house that they own in the village of Red Hook, for which they claimed a $15,764 loss for depreciation of the property. They also gave $1,000 to charity.

Molinaro explained in late April why he was waiting until a few weeks past the April 17 filing date to release the details.

“I paid all my taxes,” Molinaro said. “We just wanted to make sure we had all the information accurately.”

Cuomo released his taxes in mid-April. They showed Cuomo made just over $212,000 from his salary as governor and from investments. He paid about $55,000 in state and federal income taxes and gave $11,000 to a charity for the homeless that he founded over 30 years ago.

Hours before Molinaro released his 2017 filings, Cuomo’s campaign said the Republican candidate, who has held public office since he was a teenager, should release the past 10 years of his tax returns.

Cuomo, speaking to reporters after an event in Rochester, said past candidates for governor, including himself, have released multiple years of tax statements. He said former Gov. George Pataki released 14 years of tax returns, and Cuomo himself made public 10 years of returns, as did former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

“This is basic transparency,” Cuomo said.

Molinaro’s campaign fired back at Cuomo, saying the governor — who has said publicly he is a property taxpayer — needs to prove that he actually pays those taxes. Cuomo does not own a home, but lives with his girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee, who has a house in Westchester. He has said that he splits all household expenses with her and pays half of her $37,000 in property taxes. The governor does not claim a deduction for the taxes on his tax forms.

Cuomo’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Cynthia Nixon, a successful actor, has not yet released any information about her taxes, though she has said she filed for an extension. Extensions typically last six months, so Nixon would not have to file a detailed tax return until mid-October, after the September primary.

Cuomo took an indirect shot at his challenger from the left, who has been gaining on him in recent polls.

“If you’re unwilling to release your taxes, it probably means you have something to hide,” Cuomo said. “And this is the wrong business to get into if you have something to hide.”

Nixon told reporters in New York City on April 30 that she would release more information on her taxes within a few days.

“We will have everything out as soon as it’s ready,” Nixon said.

It has never been mandatory for candidates to release their tax returns, but for decades, statewide candidates for office in New York have done so, as well as presidential candidates. The first candidate, and now president, to break with that custom is Donald Trump. He has said he can’t release his tax returns because they are being audited by the IRS.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.