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.

Ways to Connect

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

After several years of budget surpluses, New York state tax revenue is coming in at a lower-than-expected rate.

That could affect big-ticket programs like school aid and health care as well as a multi-year tax cut planned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators.

Income tax collections are down nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars from what Cuomo’s budget division projected in April, at the start of the state’s fiscal year.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

With less than three weeks before Election Day, Hillary Clinton is even further ahead of Donald Trump in New York state, and that could affect downballot races, including seats for the state Senate.

Clinton is 24 points ahead of Trump, at 54 percent to 30 percent, a jump from when Siena College did a survey in September. Spokesman Steve Greenberg said the biggest change is independents moving over to the Democratic presidential candidate’s camp. A two-point lead among independents for Clinton has grown to a 17-point lead.

PNI / Flickr

Pipeline companies are not having a lot of success in New York so far in 2016; opponents say they are dirty and continue New York’s over reliance on fossil fuels. Two projects have already been canceled. But a pipeline company representative says the projects are not as harmful as opponents say, and essential for the state’s current electric needs.

Until recently, expanding and building pipelines was not terribly controversial, as most people agreed that there was a common need to transport oil and gas for fuel and electricity.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News File Photo

State lawmakers with disabled children, along with people with developmental disabilities and their caregivers, rallied Monday at the state Capitol for more money in the budget to pay caregivers a living wage. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature approved a gradual minimum wage increase to $15 an hour downstate and $12.50 an hour upstate, saying mega-companies like McDonald’s and Burger King can afford to pay their workers more.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Reform groups say in light of the criminal charges against some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s former associates, there are a number of changes that should be made to stop more corruption in the future.

The federal charges of bid-rigging and bribery center on Cuomo’s key economic development programs, including the Buffalo Billion.

New York State Senate

Democrats in New York are trying to keep the heat on Republicans running for office over the coarse remarks made by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in a leaked video.

Every day since Friday’s release of the tape — where Donald Trump disparages women in a crude manner — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has slammed Trump. And he’s urged New York Republicans to disassociate themselves from the top of their ticket.

“They should stand up and say, ‘I’m a Republican, but I’m a New Yorker first,’” Cuomo said. “‘And we’ll have nothing to do with the degradation of women.’”

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The beleaguered head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute has formally resigned from his post after being placed on leave without pay following criminal charges from state and federal officials.

Alain Kaloyeros, who is accused of helping to engineer bribery and kickback schemes involving state contracts for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development programs, on Monday sent State University officials a letter of resignation from his post as president of SUNY Polytechnic. The letter was first made public Tuesday.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is keeping the heat on New York Republicans to disown Donald Trump after the GOP presidential candidate’s coarse remarks about women revealed in a video over the weekend.

Cuomo said he does not think Trump turned around his troubled candidacy in Sunday night’s debate performance and, for the third day in arrow, called on New York Republicans to reject their party’s presidential nominee.

“They should stand up and say ‘I’m a Republican, but I’m a New Yorker first,’” Cuomo said. “‘And we’ll have nothing to do with the degradation of women.'”

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is one of many Democrats condemning Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his newly-released statements in 2005, where he spoke of women in vulgar terms, and described actions that many view as sexual assault.

“This was a disrespectful, sexist, derogatory statement about all women, and it should be condemned,” Cuomo said, speaking after a briefing on an accident on the Long Island Railroad Sunday.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, speaking Thursday at a panel on corruption in state government at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, took a shot at some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's actions.

Bharara, without mentioning Cuomo by name, seemed to criticize the governor’s actions. He said with the recent crime wave sweeping state government that’s led to Bharara’s successful prosecution of the former leaders of the Legislature, some recent actions have been inappropriate.

Governor Andrew Cuomo

Some environmental groups say Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration should reconsider an $8 billion bailout of three upstate nuclear power plants, saying the cost will be passed on to ratepayers.

Cuomo plans to transition 50 percent of the state’s power to renewable energy by 2030. Part of the program includes a multi-billion-dollar subsidy to Exelon, the company that now runs two upstate nuclear power plants — Nine Mile Point in Oswego and Ginna near Rochester — and is hoping to run a third plant, FitzPatrick, also in Oswego.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The scandal over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development programs has led to more scrutiny of whether the projects are the best way to improve the state’s economy, and some watchdog groups are asking questions.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said much of the responsibility for the alleged corruption scandal touching his administration is on the state university system, specifically SUNY Polytechnic Institute, which oversaw many of the contracts.

But reform groups say the governor is not telling the whole story.

Cuomo has made a few public appearances since U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued criminal complaints against nine people, including several close to Cuomo and two major upstate real estate developers.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is distancing himself from the corruption scandal within his administration and placing the blame on others. But some say Cuomo might be better off making some changes instead.

Cuomo has made a number of public appearances across the state, continuing to promote economic development efforts, just as he did before U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged several of Cuomo’s former close associates and two major real estate developers with bribery and fraud in connection with the Buffalo Billion and other projects.

-JvL- / Flickr

It’s looking less likely that state lawmakers will be getting a long-awaited pay raise next year. A commission designed to take politics out of the issue is now coming under political pressure to not grant the salary increase.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making some changes to prevent any future bid-rigging in some of his major economic development projects. But critics on both the left and the right say Cuomo is failing to address the bigger picture — whether the $8.6 billion worth of programs are an effective use of public money.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The criminal charges against nine of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s associates is the latest incident in a wave of corruption that has enveloped the state Capitol for the past several years.

When Cuomo first became governor in 2011, he promised to do something about it. So far, he has not been particularly successful.

Cuomo, in his inaugural speech as governor on Jan. 1, 2011, promised that corruption at the Capitol would end and public trust would be restored during his tenure in office.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

A former Cuomo administration official is among eight individuals named in a criminal complaint by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and accused of carrying out kickback and bribery schemes over a period of several years. Many of those illegal acts, the complaint alleges, involve the governor’s much touted upstate economic development programs, including the Buffalo Billion.

dougtone / Flickr

Opponents of a pipeline expansion that would flow through vast portions of New York state want the Cuomo administration to deny a key permit, an act that could halt the upgrade.

The New Market Dominion pipeline is one of a dizzying array of fuel pipelines that flow through New York, in many cases taking natural gas from hydrofracking sites in other states to markets in New York and other places.

CSIS/Matt A.J. / Flickr via CC License 2.0 http://bit.ly/1ZNeCAw

A new poll shows that Hillary Clinton is still far ahead of Donald Trump among New York voters — but she has some weak points.

Clinton holds a 21-point lead over Trump among likely New York voters in the Siena College poll, down from a 25-point lead one month ago.

But Clinton has some weaknesses. She is viewed unfavorably by just over half of voters and does not have much support beyond registered Democrats, said Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg.

New York State Senate

The results of a four-way primary for a New York Senate seat may help Republicans keep control of that house in the long run.

Marisol Alcantara won Tuesday’s primary for the Upper Manhattan seat held by Adriano Espaillat, who is running for Congress. Alcantara is a Democrat, but she has said if elected to the Senate in November, she will likely ally with the breakaway Democratic faction known as the Independent Democratic Conference.

CREDO.fracking / Flickr

A group of state lawmakers is teaming up with environmental groups to ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration to ban the use of wastewater from hydrofracking and other oil and gas extraction from being spread on public roadways.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

On a state primary day, and during a hotly contested presidential campaign, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday issued a somewhat nonpartisan message to New Yorkers: Vote — or don’t complain about the results.

Cuomo did not address the latest controversies surrounding Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, nor did he advocate for more Democrats in the state Senate, as some Democrats have urged him to do.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Religious and labor advocates rallied Monday at the New York state Capitol as part of a nationwide movement, known as Moral Mondays, urging state lawmakers to take more progressive stances on issues.

The Rev. Emily McNeill, who heads the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, said her group is not as concerned about the topics promoted by the evangelical right, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

Instead, she said, the groups are focusing on helping the poor, battling global warming, increasing voter participation, and rights for immigrants.

NY State Assembly

A well-known state assemblyman from the Rochester area has died in an apparent suicide. A police officer saw Bill Nojay shoot himself near his family’s cemetery plot about 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Nojay, a 59-year-old radio talk show host, had served in the Assembly since 2013. The conservative Republican was facing a primary challenge in next Tuesday’s primary for re-election to a third term. His Democratic opponent has suspended campaigning for now.

Assembly Republican Leader Brian Kolb expressed sadness and shock.


Republicans fared better than Democrats in pro-business group Unshackle Upstate’s rankings of state legislators who are seeking re-election in November.

Unshackle Upstate’s Greg Biryla said overall, GOP lawmakers did better than Democrats when ranked on issues that business groups care about, such as holding the line on taxes and spending.

He said Assembly Republicans, the smallest conference, scored highest.

“They had numerous members who received 100, overall,” Biryla said. “They were the only conference to achieve that.”

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner faced an intense grilling from lawmakers Wednesday at a joint hearing on how the administration handled water contamination in the eastern New York village of Hoosick Falls.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

New York state’s Republican Party chairman is talking up Donald Trump and predicted that the GOP presidential candidate will do well in New York state.

Ed Cox said Trump has been looking presidential lately, appearing in Mexico alongside that country’s president, and visiting flood-ravaged Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Cox said Trump’s strength is that he’s a “self-made politician.”

“And a genius of a politician, you have to admit,” Cox said.

New York State Senate

There’s more evidence that the presidential race may affect which party will control the state Senate.

Currently, the GOP is holding on, with the help of one Democrat who meets with them.

But a new Siena College poll finds that nearly two-thirds of voters think that Donald Trump at the top of the ticket will not help Republicans hold on to the Senate, and Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate will actually help Democrats regain the Senate, said Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

An ethics reform measure approved by the New York State Legislature at the end of the legislative session still hasn’t been signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And some good-government groups say it shouldn’t.

During a year where both former leaders of the legislature were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for corruption after they abused their sources of outside income, Cuomo said he would seek to strictly limit lawmakers’ ability to earn extra pay.