Darren Bailey should release his tax returns

Bailey isn’t under any legal obligation to make his tax returns public. But if the state senator is serious about serving the public as governor, he ought to play ball.

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State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, speaks at an election night rally at the Thelma Keller Convention Center in Effingham after winning the Republican gubernatorial primary election, Tuesday night, June 28, 2022. Bailey will face Democrat incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the general election in November.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, speaks at an election night rally at the Thelma Keller Convention Center in Effingham after winning the Republican gubernatorial primary election on June 28.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A day after Darren Bailey secured the gubernatorial nomination for the Republican Party, he took a page out of his supporter Donald Trump’s playbook, saying he wouldn’t release copies of his income tax returns.

“Right now, I see absolutely no reason in doing that,” the downstate state senator told the Sun-Times’ Tina Sfondeles last week. “I don’t see that as a qualifier.”

Trump was equally dismissive in 2016 when he said he wouldn’t release his tax returns because he was waiting for an IRS audit to be completed — which, even if true at the time, did not stop him from releasing the returns.

“There’s nothing to learn from them,” he said at the time. Fake news.

Editorial

Editorial

Yet personal tax returns can reveal critical information voters should know before casting their ballot: conflicts of interests, charitable donations, income and wealth and other financial information. All of which is useful to know when deciding on a candidate who, if elected, will control taxpayers’ money.

No, Bailey isn’t under any legal obligation to make his tax returns public. There are no requirements for candidates and elected officials to do so. But if Bailey is serious about serving the public as governor, he ought to play ball.

Traditionally, since at least 1976, every Illinois gubernatorial nominee has released their tax returns before the November election. Similarly, every president since Richard Nixon — except for Trump — released their full tax returns too, or in Gerald Ford’s case, a tax summary. It may not be the law, but it is the norm and an entirely reasonable expectation among voters.

Transparency and accountability are what many voters seek in their leaders. When Illinoisans hear that Bailey is resisting both, many may wonder if he has something to hide.

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During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner released their two-page tax cover sheets instead of their full returns, which would have included schedules filed to claim exemptions and charitable donations, Sfondeles reported.

Bailey said he doesn’t care about Pritzker’s tax records and calls his Democratic challenger “an out-of-touch and elitist billionaire.”

When discussing Pritzker, Bailey — who acknowledges he’s a millionaire — has said, “The people of Illinois are going to understand the truth.”

But by not publicly sharing his tax returns, Bailey is burying the full truth himself.

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