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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7:17am

Mon February 3, 2014
Politics and Government

Fracking likely to be a topic at budget hearing

Anti-fracking protesters attend an environmental budget hearing in late January.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

The state’s health commissioner is scheduled to testify before the legislative fiscal committees Monday morning, and he’s sure to be asked about a long delayed health study on hydrofracking.

Dr. Nirav Shah, who was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the state’s health commissioner, is expected to be asked by state lawmakers about a study he’s conducting on the potential health effects of natural gas drilling. The review has been going on for a year and a half now, and until it’s completed, hydrofracking is on hold in New York.

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7:11am

Mon February 3, 2014
Politics and Government

Is Cuomo's budget surplus for real?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been taking credit for a $2 billion budget surplus in his new spending plan. But critics say that claim is not entirely accurate because the windfall does not actually materialize for another two years, and only if certain conditions are met.

Cuomo is fond of comparing the differences in the state’s finances since taking office three years ago.

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7:20am

Thu January 30, 2014
Environment

Cuomo's environmental commissioner says fracking delay will continue

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens testifies at a legislative budget hearing.
Karen Dewitt WXXI

One day after President Barack Obama touted hydrofracking of natural gas as a bridge fuel, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s environmental commissioner says it’s extremely unlikely that permits for drilling wells will be issued in the next year.

Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens testified at a legislative budget hearing. The state has had a de facto moratorium on hydrofracking for nearly six years.

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7:06am

Wed January 29, 2014
Education

Education hearing turns into Common Core complaint session

Education Commissioner John King testifies to a state Senate committee during an October meeting in Syracuse. (file photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO/file photo

The state’s education commissioner testified at a legislative budget hearing, where he once again heard complaints from concerned lawmakers regarding the fast track adoption of the new national Common Core standards.

Lawmakers, calling the roll out of Common Core a nightmare and a mistake, grilled state Education Commissioner John King and asked for more time to adopt the new federal standards.

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11:25pm

Tue January 28, 2014
Regional Coverage

Comptroller reports state spent record amount on overtime

Ryan Delaney WRVO

New York's state comptroller says the Cuomo administration racked up a record $611 million in overtime payments over the past year.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the 16 percent increase in overtime payments between 2012 and 2013 comes mostly from employees in institutional settings, like prisons and psychiatric centers. The state police also paid troopers $35 million in overtime payments, at an average of over $74 an hour.  

DiNapoli says the uptick comes at a time when state government has been downsizing employees.

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11:01pm

Tue January 28, 2014
Regional Coverage

Ethics panel rejects donor privacy requests from abortion groups

A state ethics board has denied applications from groups on both sides of the abortion debate a request to keep private their donor lists.

The groups, including the pro-choice Family Planning Advocates, and the Christian conservative New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, had argued that making their donor lists public could pose a danger to their contributors because they lobby on controversial issues.  The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, rejected the request from both groups, along with the request by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Women’s Equality Coalition.

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7:10am

Tue January 28, 2014
Politics and Government

Mayors testify at annual Tin Cup Day in Albany

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio talk during a panel discussion.
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo Flickr

Mayors from around the state -- including Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner -- testified before the state legislative fiscal committees. In what’s traditionally known as Tin Cup Day, many asked for more money, while others asked for authorization to collect more money from their citizens.

First up was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who came armed with a new report that he says shows how he could enact universal access to pre-kindergarten at a “rapid pace,” in an expansion that he calls one of the largest in the nation’s history.

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7:51am

Mon January 27, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo's budget reads like reelection agenda

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces the voters in November, and his budget plan, with many of the major initiatives phased in over the next few years, can be viewed as a blueprint for the governor’s reelection.

Many of the major components in Cuomo’s budget -- including universal pre-kindergarten and business tax cuts -- take three to four years to be fully phased in. Even the property tax freeze is a multi-year proposal.

Implicit in the plan’s success is that Cuomo remains governor for the next few years to carry out all of the proposals.

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8:11am

Thu January 23, 2014
Politics and Government

State groups respond to Cuomo's budget plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his annual budget address Tuesday. (File photo)
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Reactions are pouring in after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his 2014 budget plan, ranging from praise to criticism.

Business groups are among the happiest so far with the governor's budget. The Business Council of New York swtate, reacting to Cuomo’s calls for a corporate tax cut, a faster phase out of an energy tax and a reduction in the estate tax and property taxes, say they applaud the governor’s continued commitment to improve the state’s business climate.

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9:13pm

Tue January 21, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo's budget phases in pre-K, tax cuts

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his budget speech Tuesday.
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his state budget Tuesday. The $137.2 billion dollar spending plan includes more money for schools, including a phase in of funding for universal pre-kindergarten programs. It would also freeze property taxes for two years -- if local governments cooperate.

The governor’s budget, which includes a 3.1 percent increase in school aid, a two-year property tax freeze and phased-in business tax cuts, offers something for everyone in a year where Cuomo and all 213 members of the legislature are up for reelection.

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8:32am

Tue January 21, 2014
Politics and Government

Siena poll shows Cuomo gaining popularity

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is beginning 2014 with high numbers, according to a recently released Siena College poll.

The governor has regained some lost ground, and now is viewed favorably by 66 percent of New Yorkers. Cuomo would also beat potential GOP opponents, Donald Trump and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, by almost 50 points, says Siena’s Steve Greenberg.

“He’s governor is sitting pretty,” said Greenberg. “His numbers, favorability, job performance, reelect, are the best they’ve been in about a year.”

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8:07am

Tue January 21, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo expected to cover education, tax cuts and campaign finance reform in state budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the State of the State address on Jan. 8.
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo releases his state budget proposal Tuesday afternoon, and many will be watching to see what it contains and how the numbers will work.

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2:43pm

Fri January 17, 2014
Politics and Government

Assembly leader now calling for special elections to fill vacancies

Wallyg Flickr

Some top state lawmakers seem to be changing their minds over whether to call special elections for a growing number of vacancies in the legislature.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver now says he wants voters to pick new legislators to fill 11 vacancies. And Gov. Cuomo now says he is looking at the issue.

Silver had said special elections to fill the nine vacancies in the Assembly and two in the Senate might be pointless, since new members could not be seated before the budget is done, and that he did not expect the legislature to do much work after late March.

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7:17am

Fri January 17, 2014
Politics and Government

State lawmakers differ over Common Core fix

New York State Education Commissioner John King testifies to a state Senate committee during an early October meeting in Syracuse. (File photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO/file photo

There’s continued dissatisfaction over the state’s implementation of the new Common Core standards, which parents, students and teachers have complained has led to too much testing. But there’s disagreement in the state legislature over how to fix it.

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7:00am

Fri January 17, 2014
Politics and Government

Reform groups urge Cuomo to include public campaign funding in budget

Thirty reform groups have written to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, asking that his new state budget plan include funds for campaign finance reform.

The groups are asking the governor to essentially put his money where his mouth is when it comes to campaign donation reform ideas like public financing and a new agency to police violations.

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7:56am

Thu January 16, 2014
Politics and Government

Growing number of vacancies in legislature likely to remain until 2015

A view of the New York state Assembly chambers.
-JvL- Flickr

The New York state legislature now has 11 unfilled seats, after one Assemblyman resigned over a sexual harassment scandal and another was expelled after being convicted of a felony. But it could be another year before those seats are filled.

In recent days, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of the Bronx was automatically ousted from the Assembly when he was convicted on felony bribery charges. Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, of Cheektowaga, resigned under pressure after seven women accused him of sexual harassment.

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7:48am

Wed January 15, 2014
Politics and Government

Pro-school funding rally draws hundreds to state Capitol

knittymarie/flickr

Hundreds of school children, parents and union members held a rally and sit-in at the state Capitol to build momentum for more spending on schools in the state budget.

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7:59am

Tue January 14, 2014
Politics and Government

Assemblyman convicted on bribery charges

An Assemblyman from the Bronx has been convicted of corruption charges, meanwhile an Assemblyman from the Buffalo area resigned over accusations of sexual harassment.

On the first formal day of the legislative session, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was convicted of bribery by a federal jury after he took $20,000 from adult day care developers in exchange for promising favorable legislation. Under state law, Stevenson is automatically removed from office.

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7:45am

Tue January 14, 2014
Politics and Government

Patients urge New York to pass bill allowing better access to medical marijuana

Kate Hinz with her daughter, Morgan, and Wanda Hernandez, a patient advocate who has HIV, are urging the state to pass a bill allowing better access to medical marijuana in New York.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Patients with serious health conditions, including children with a severe seizure disorder, came to the state Capitol to urge passage of a bill to better allow access to medical marijuana in New York.

Kate Hinz is one of dozens of people who came to the Capitol on the first formal day of session to lobby for the bill to allow medical marijuana in New York as a treatment for a variety of medical conditions. Her daughter Morgan has Dravet’s syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that is incurable and very difficult to treat with conventional drugs.

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7:28am

Mon January 13, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo trying again for anti-corruption reform

Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his 2014 State of the State address in Albany.
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

In his State of the State speech, Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again called for a reform package to address corruption in the legislature. Last year, bills to crack down on bribery and enact public campaign financing were never passed.  

The legislature failed in 2013 to act on any of the governor’s reform proposals, despite several arrests, indictments and imprisonment of lawmakers.

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7:35am

Fri January 10, 2014
Politics and Government

Speaker Silver says latest assemblyman accused of sexual harassment should leave

The legislative session begins with the New York State Assembly still plagued by sexual harassment scandals.  Seven women have now accused a Buffalo-area assemblyman of sexual harassment.

Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak , of Cheektowaga, has now been accused of sexual harassment  by a seventh woman. Another assemblyman, Micah Kellner, of Manhattan , has been censured by the Assembly Ethics Committee for alleged sexual harassment.

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5:50pm

Wed January 8, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo's fourth State of the State focuses on taxes, economics

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State address in Albany Wednesday
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered something for everyone in his fourth State of the State message, as he faces a re-election year. He outlined programs ranging from property tax cuts to an education bond act, to allowing medical marijuana.

Cuomo began his speech focusing on tax cuts and job creation. He highlighted a plan announced earlier in the week to cut the corporate tax rate, and property taxes , in a scheme that would hinge on local governments freezing spending, and consolidating.

“The highest property tax in the country is in Westchester County,” said Cuomo.

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6:47am

Wed January 8, 2014
Politics and Government

Taxes, marijuana and infrastructure to be discussed in State of the State address

Ryan Delaney WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives his annual State of the State speech Wednesday. Cuomo has already introduced some of his key agenda items, but there are still some surprises left.    

Cuomo has already released a plan to cut business taxes, the estate tax, and a multi-step process to freeze property taxes.

He also invited Vice President Joe Biden to the Capitol to help lay out his plans for better handling future weather disasters.

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2:41am

Wed January 8, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo, Biden meet on infrastructure rebuilding plans

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted Vice President Joe Biden to talk about new ways of rebuilding infrastructure after damaging storms. The two are potential presidential contenders in 2016, if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run. But they had nothing but praise for one another.  

New York state received $6 billion in federal aid after Superstorm Sandy, and Cuomo Biden to the State Capitol, to show him how he’s spending the money.

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8:06am

Tue January 7, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo tax cut plan reduces business and property taxes

Ryan Delaney WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a key portion of his State of the State address early. He unveiled a plan to cut business taxes, and potentially freeze local property taxes for two years.

Surrounded by business leaders, Cuomo outlined a plan Monday that would cut business taxes, and result in property tax reductions for businesses and homeowners, if local governments and schools comply with a set of requirements in the next three years.   

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7:56am

Tue January 7, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo wary of wider marijuana legalization

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who plans to introduce a limited program for medical marijuana in his State of the State speech Wednesday, says he does not see it leading to the legalization of the drug at this time. But some in the legislature disagree.

Cuomo is using his authority through the New York State Health Department to allow up to 20 hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana to some patients. Cuomo says he favors a limited experiment for now to work out any potential problems.

“If it goes bad, we can correct or improve it, all within our own control,” Cuomo said.  

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7:56am

Mon January 6, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo faces challenges from political right and left in 2014

File photo
Zack Seward WXXI

All 213 members of the state legislature are facing re-election later this year, as is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But Cuomo also has the challenge of balancing competing interests as he tries to win another term by a big margin.

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2:38pm

Fri January 3, 2014
Politics and Government

Storm moves out of New York state, but extreme cold temperatures remain

Durrie Lawrence/WRVO File Photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the worst of the winter storm is now over, but New Yorkers now face another challenge -- extreme cold.

In a conference call with reporters, Cuomo says the storm, which dropped several inches of snow, is moving east and out of New York.

“Mother nature has moved on, somewhat,” Cuomo said.

And he says all roads are now open. Cuomo defended his decision to close parts of the New York State Thruway, the Long Island Expressway, and I-84 overnight.

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6:30am

Thu January 2, 2014
Politics and Government

State Assembly Speaker wants minimum wage hike fast-tracked

The state’s minimum wage is now $8 an hour, after a new law took effect Dec. 31. It’s part of a phased-in increase that will result in a $9 an hour rate for the state’s lowest income earners by 2016. But a leading lawmaker says the hike should be phased in faster, and advocates that tip earners, like wait staff, should also be included.  

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5:34am

Tue December 31, 2013
Politics and Government

Ethics panel meets for final time in 2013

The state ethics board held its final meeting of the year, and announced no major decisions or initiatives. Critics say that’s normal for the controversial Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), and they say that’s part of the problem.

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