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Citing Trump, New Jersey legislature passes tax disclosure bill

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill requiring U.S. presidential candidates to submit their tax returns to have their names listed on the state ballot, reacting to President Donald Trump's refusal to disclose his returns during the 2016 campaign.

The legislation, which also applies to vice presidential candidates, has passed both houses of New Jersey's Democratic-controlled Legislature. It now goes to Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who supported Trump's campaign and had a role on the president's transition team. The governor's office declined to say whether he would sign it.

Trump bucked a tradition that dates back to the mid-1970s by refusing to release his tax returns, either as a candidate or after being elected.

"Donald Trump has eschewed at least 40 years of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, raising an untold number of questions and possible ethical dilemmas," said Democratic Assemblyman John McKeon, one of the bill's sponsors.

"If Congress is unwilling to address this, hopefully other states will follow our lead," he said.

New Jersey is the first of at least 20 states considering similar legislation to send it to the governor's desk.

The bill passed the General Assembly on a largely party line vote of 49-to-25. The Senate, also controlled by Democrats, passed the legislation on Monday by a vote of 24-11.

The bill would require presidential candidates to release federal returns for at least their last five taxable years as a condition of having their names on the state ballot in general elections.

If Christie were to veto the legislation, it would require a two-thirds vote by the Legislature - comprised of the 40-seat Senate and 80-seat Assembly - to override the veto

Brian Murray, Christie's press secretary, declined to say what action the governor will take on the bill, citing a policy of not discussing legislation until it reaches the governor, and his staff has had "ample time to thoroughly review it."

If Christie fails to take action on the measure, it will become law after 45 days.

Other state legislatures where similar measures are pending include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania Tennessee and Virginia.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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