Karen DeWitt

Capitol Bureau Correspondent, Albany

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.

She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now.  She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers. 

Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.

She is a past recipient of the prestigious Walter T. Brown Memorial award for excellence in journalism, from the Legislative Correspondents Association, and was named Media Person of the Year for 2009 by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

Karen is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo.

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The fallout continues from President Donald Trump’s decision to end subsidies to health insurance companies to help lower-income Americans pay for their health insurance. But it’s still unclear what the exact impact will be in New York.

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A wide variety of groups have spent more than $1.3 million to urge voters to vote “no” on holding a constitutional convention. The opponents have far outspent a smaller number of advocates who urge a "yes" vote on the November ballot. 

The more than 150-member coalition opposing a constitutional convention includes labor unions, and the state’s Conservative Party, which often opposes unions. Also against the convention are both pro and anti-abortion groups, environmentalists and gun rights organizations.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News file photo

The state’s comptroller is siding with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over concerns that federal health care cuts will damage New York’s budget, but he said the governor’s budget experts should have saved more money in rainy day funds.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said Cuomo is right to draw attention to over a billion dollars in potential health care cuts to the state, now that Congress and President Donald Trump have postponed acting on a new federal budget.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo now says he’s returning all of the money donated to his campaign from disgraced film executive Harvey Weinstein.

Cuomo initially returned $50,000 donated from Weinstein to the governor’s 2018 reelection campaign. The governor said he’d already spent over $60,000 that the politically liberal movie mogul had donated to previous campaigns, and so could not give it back.

Weinstein is accused of sexually harassing and raping women. Weinstein has denied the charges, though he’s admitted he has a problem and is seeking help.

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New Yorkers have the power on Nov. 7 to decide whether some state officials convicted of a felony should be stripped of their pensions.

But the proposal would not apply to two former legislative leaders and several former associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who are accused of corruption.

The ballot proposition before voters on Election Day would allow a judge to determine whether a state official convicted of crimes like bribery or bid-rigging should lose all or part of their pension.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is more prominent on the national stage these days, leading some to wonder whether he is running for president.

In Cuomo’s first term as governor, he made a point of never leaving the state, even taking vacations within its borders, saying the state is so beautiful that he never needed to leave it. He discouraged any talk of seeking higher office.

Lately, though, that has changed.

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The tax overhaul plan proposed by President Donald Trump and now being considered in Congress would end the deduction on federal income tax forms for state and local property taxes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it would disproportionately harm New Yorkers, where property taxes are among the highest in the nation, and he’s taken opportunities at recent public events to make the case against the plan.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

People who say the terminally ill should have a legal option to end their lives with medical aid presented petitions to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, asking that he and the Legislature make that change. 

About 7,500 New York State Fair attendees signed the petition, which asks that “a mentally capable, terminally ill adult with a prognosis of six months or less” to live be permitted the option to obtain medication to end their lives if “their suffering becomes unbearable.”

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he may have to call a special session in December to deal with potential funding cuts from Washington that he calls part of a “federal assault” on New York.

Cuomo said he’s developing a plan to manage what he said will be over a billion dollars in cuts to the state’s public hospitals, now that Congress has failed to renew a key program.

“All hospitals will need to find savings,” Cuomo said.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered that flags be flown at half-staff across New York in a memorial for the victims of the Las Vegas incident that left at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured, calling it “yet another senseless and horrific mass shooting.”

Anti-gun violence advocates are renewing calls for a new law that they said might prevent some of these events in the future.

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New York could be facing its first major shortfall in several years, partly due to falling tax collections and federal health care and other policy changes. That could leave the state with billions less in state aid.

Lately, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s been sharing some bad news with New Yorkers. Twice in recent days he’s said there could be a multibillion-dollar shortfall in the budget next year.

The first time was at a briefing on how the state would be affected by potential federal Medicaid cuts. 

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New York’s Democratic lawmakers are vowing to fight President Donald Trump’s tax overhaul proposal, perhaps even in court.

Meanwhile, a think tank’s analysis finds some middle-class New Yorkers could save a small amount of money under the income tax portion of the plan.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the tax overhaul plan and the proposal to eliminate state and local tax deductions from federal income taxes would be “devastating” to New York.

“It is a tax increase plan,” Cuomo said Thursday on Long Island. “Period.”

Cuomo said he might sue.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The latest version of a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is now dead in Congress, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains worried about another potential cut in federal funds to hospitals that he said would blow a hole in the state budget.

The money is known as the Disproportionate Share Hospital fund, or DSH, and the money goes to public hospitals and safety net hospitals that often serve the poorest patients.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

Former state Senate Leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam saw their federal corruption convictions overturned by a federal appeals court panel Tuesday.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is considering a possible challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a Democratic primary for the 2018 governor’s race.

Miner said if she does run for governor, it won’t be a conventional campaign.

Miner, who sat down for an interview with public radio and TV, has just over three months remaining in her job as mayor and she said she’s focused on finishing up there. She’s prevented by term limits from running for mayor again.

Melissa DeRosa / Gov. Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again wading into national issues this week. He’s had a press conference against the latest attempt in the U.S. Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. And he met with the governors of California and Washington to discuss steps to slow climate change.

In both cases, the governor said he’s addressing the matters because the actions — or, in the case of climate change, inactions — in Washington have a harmful impact on New York.

Marco Varisco / Flickr

Republicans in the state of New York met for a planning session in Albany on Tuesday in advance of the 2018 campaigns, which will begin shortly.

The party’s leader, Ed Cox, believes Republicans have a good chance at winning statewide offices against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others next year.

Republicans in New York face a daunting challenge in the race for governor next year. There are fewer GOP voters than ever, as the number of Republicans shrinks and Democratic ranks grow.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

In light of the recent massive data breach at the credit reporting company Equifax, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is taking steps to make sure that in the future, the credit agencies have better cybersecurity in place.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Thirty historic sites in 21 counties in New York received $239,634 in preservation grant money, and they say it makes a difference in a region where the economy is struggling.

The grants were distributed by the Preservation League of New York State, along with help from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation. They were awarded to groups ranging from an antique boat museum to a dance center to help with preserving cultural heritage across New York.

Doug Kerr / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New Yorkers who use the state Thruway will have a bit of a wait before more cashless tolling is installed on the nearly 500-mile tolled portion of the road.

The Cuomo administration’s Thruway Authority has adopted cashless tolls at the new Tappan Zee Bridge and will take down the toll booths on the Grand Island Bridge in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area early next year.

There already is an option for cashless tolling at the Woodbury exit of the Thruway in the lower Hudson Valley, although toll booths still exist as an alternative.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News File Photo

The state Board of Regents is taking steps to make it easier for teachers to become certified in New York. But the state education commissioner denies that it’s a lessening of requirements.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Andrew Cuomo, in what has become an annual event for the New York governor, led a motorcycle ride along the path of a New York City firefighter rescue team to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Cuomo was introduced by actor Robert De Niro at a luncheon at the Javits Center in Manhattan, just before the final leg of the motorcycle ride. De Niro said when he heard he would be speaking before members of a motorcycle gang, he expected the Hells Angels. 

John Tann / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner received a grilling from state senators at a hearing this week on whether New York is doing enough to combat tick-borne illnesses.

Health Commissioner Howard Zucker told the senators that this year, there are fewer deer ticks and fewer reported cases of Lyme disease in the state.

But, he said, the number of Lone Star ticks is up. They can carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and even cause someone to become allergic to eating red meat.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

A former EPA administrator and a former New York state health department official have teamed up with a Vermont college to conduct a health survey of people potentially affected by polluted water in the villages of Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, and in Bennington, Vermont.

Judith Enck was the EPA regional administrator during the Obama administration who first warned Hoosick Falls residents in the fall of 2015 not to drink the water in their village because it was contaminated with PFOA, a chemical used in plastics manufacturing for decades in the area.

thirdpoint.com

A left-leaning group is asking the state’s top politicians to give back donations from a hedge fund manager who made racially charged comments against New York’s only black female legislative leader. But so far, most — including Gov. Andrew Cuomo — have held on to the money.

Daniel Loeb, the founder and chief executive of the multi-billion-dollar hedge fund Third Point LLC, received attention when, in a Facebook post, he compared the leader of the state Senate Democrats, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, to the Ku Klux Klan.

SUNY

The State University of New York board members overseeing charter schools are in the midst of a public comment period on whether charter school teachers should be allowed to have fewer qualifications than public school teachers.

Under the controversial proposal, charter schools that already have demonstrated strong academic performance would be able to set their own qualifications, with one proposal requiring a bachelor’s degree and just 30 hours of classroom instruction in order to begin teaching students.

newnybridge.com

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to open on Thursday the first span of the new Thruway bridge over the Hudson River, known as the Tappan Zee Bridge and to be renamed the Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge.

But questions still linger over how, ultimately, the bridge will be paid for.

Cuomo has been reluctant to divulge details on how the tolls on the bridge will be affected after the multi-billion-dollar project to replace the over three-mile-long span is completed.

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The results of this year’s Common Core-related standardized tests show scores for New York’s schoolchildren inching up. About one-fifth of the children boycotted the tests altogether because of continued controversy over the Common Core learning standards.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News File Photo

Carl Paladino has been removed from the Buffalo Board of Education in a ruling by the state education commissioner issued Thursday.

Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia upheld the school board’s application to remove Paladino as a member of the board. 

Pictures of Money / Flickr

New Yorkers who sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act exchanges for individuals will see their premiums rise by an average of 14 percent, now that the Cuomo administration has approved rate increases for insurers in the exchanges.

Part of the increase is due to worries and uncertainties over the future of the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

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