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Democratic governors threaten legal action against Republican tax plan

Governors like New York's Andrew Cuomo argue that the bill illegally harms blue states.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and other Republican congressmen applaud as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) signs the final version of the GOP tax bill. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and other Republican congressmen applaud as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) signs the final version of the GOP tax bill. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The Republican tax plan has been law for just over a week, but it’s already facing the threat of legal challenges from Democratic governors who claim that the bill’s disparate impact on red and blue states could be illegal.

On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told CNN that the bill amounted to “pillaging” from blue states in order to provide tax cuts for more conservative states.

“This tax provision hits the blue states by eliminating the state and local tax deductibility and uses that money to finance the tax cut in the red states,” Cuomo said.

The Republican tax plan eliminates deductions for state and local income and property taxes at $10,000, hitting areas with high property values and high income rates the hardest. Many of these places are located in states like California and New York, which have a history of resisting the Trump administration’s agenda. Of the 12 Republican lawmakers who voted against the tax bill, seven are from California or New York.

“You want to hurt New York? You want to hurt California?” Cuomo said on CNN. “They’re the economic engines.”

Earlier in December, Cuomo — along with California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy — suggested that progressive states could seek legal recourse against the tax bill, but did not say exactly what that action might look like. In his interview with CNN, Cuomo suggested that the bill might be unconstitutional.

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Norm Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former White House ethics czar, said on Twitter that the “disparate treatment of pro GOP and anti-GOP States” in the tax plan “is so grotesque that there may well be a due process claim.”

Other legal experts have argued that the challenges would likely depend on state’s being able to show that the tax bill violates the protection of states’ rights under the U.S. Constitution.

States like California and New York have already been active in challenging the Trump administration’s agenda through the courts, from filing lawsuits over the administration’s attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act to challenging rollbacks on environmental regulations.