LANSING –– House and Senate Democrats announced their plan during Sunshine Week that will make Michigan a national model for transparency and accountability. Under the Democratic package, state elected officials will be required to disclose their personal finances. And presidential candidates must release their most recent tax returns in order to appear on the Michigan ballot.

“The people of Michigan deserve elected officials who will represent them — not take votes to personally benefit themselves or powerful special interests that run the show in Lansing. The Democratic plan will crack down on these conflicts of interests by requiring that people running for office disclose their personal finances and those running for president release their tax returns. This plan will finally make government more accountable to the people it is supposed to serve,” said House Democratic Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing). 

During the 2016 election, voters’ concern about the influence of special interests in government and conflicts of interest reached an all-time high. The Dems’ plan gets to the bottom of this problem by requiring state elected officials to disclose their personal finances, just as those running for U.S. House and Senate do today. And presidential candidates will have to release their last five years of tax returns. Only then will citizens know if politicians are acting in their own interest or those of well-heeled lobbyists when they vote or make policy.

“In the last presidential election, we had the unprecedented case of a major-party candidate who steadfastly refused to release his tax returns. That meant that the American people were deprived of critical information about a presidential candidate’s business and financial holdings, which could end up taking precedence over the national interest in any number of policies or trade negotiations. We cannot let this precedent stand. That’s why the Democrats have legislation requiring that all presidential candidates release five years of tax returns in order to appear on the Michigan ballot,” said Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren).

State Rep. Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw) will be introducing companion legislation in the state House.

“Voters want accountability. They want the people they send to office to truly represent them and not abuse that trust for their own personal gain. One critical way to do that is with legislation I’m introducing that would require that presidential candidates release their most recent tax returns in order to appear on the Michigan ballot. We couldn’t ask for a better example in the last election of why we should be concerned about financial interests and conflicts of interest than in President Donald Trump, who refused to release his tax returns time and time again,” said Rep. Guerra.

The Center for Public Integrity rates Michigan dead last when it comes to government secrecy and corruption. There are 47 states that currently require elected officials to disclose their personal finances. Several other states, including New York, Oregon, Massachusetts and California, are also considering legislation that would require candidates for the highest office in the land to release their tax returns in order to qualify for the ballot. Michigan would be the first Midwestern state to consider such a measure.

“For too long, Michigan has sat at the bottom of national rankings for government transparency and accountability. We need to change that and Sunshine Week is the perfect time to do so. Our plan requires that elected officials, from state representatives on up to the governor, to be straight with the taxpayers who pay their salaries about what financial interests they have and how that could influence their voting. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s a public-interest issue that every member of the Legislature should get behind,” said Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids).