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

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State lawmakers planned to hold meetings throughout the weekend as they put the finishing touches on the state budget. But, a couple big issues remain unresolved.

Senate Republicans are trying to modify Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to require full disclosure of law clients in legislators’ outside business.

Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, who works part-time at a private law firm, says he expects to agree on a “robust” new disclosure law, but concedes that it may only apply to new law clients, not existing business arrangements.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The state Assembly, Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo continue to work on sticking points in the state budget, as yet another item has now been dropped from the spending plan -- raising the state’s minimum wage.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature are considering a commission to design a new teacher evaluation plan, in order to break an impasse over the state budget. But even some lawmakers admit that the compromise is just kicking the can down the road.

Cuomo has demanded that education policy changes be passed along with the state budget or he’ll hold up school aid increases.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders say they are making progress on the budget. Cuomo, after a private meeting with Senate Republicans, says he’s closer to an agreement on ethics reform, but the governor is getting some criticism for dropping some items out of the budget, including the Dream Act.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

A protest to raise the minimum wage drew hundreds to the state Capitol, and included a brief occupation of the building’s Dunkin' Donuts. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers are considering hiking the minimum wage in the new budget, but protesters say it is not enough.

The protesters, who have been holding rallies every week, stepped up their efforts when around 100 stormed into the Capitol’s Dunkin' Donuts and demanded that the state’s minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

With just over a week until the state budget is due, there’s pressure to drop a number of unrelated items in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state spending plan.

Cuomo has tied ethics reform and education policy changes to the budget, and threatened to hold up the spending plan if the legislature does not agree. 

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

A new poll finds voters disagree with most of Gov. Andrew’s Cuomo’s tactics during the current budget negotiations. Cuomo has tied ethics reform and education policy changes to the budget, and threatened to hold up the spending plan if the legislature does not agree.  

A Siena College poll finds that, while New Yorkers think ethics reform and school funding are important, they don’t want the issues linked to the budget, and they say an on-time spending plan is important to them, says Siena’s Steve Greenberg.

Office of Eric Schneiderman / Flickr

There’s still no final three way deal on an ethics reform proposal at the state Capitol.  And reform groups say a proposal offered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Assembly does not go far enough.

The plan by Cuomo and Assembly Democrats requires that lawmakers disclose the source of all outside income they receive above $1,000. Lawyers must reveal the names of their clients if they earn more than $5,000. They would also have to prove they are actually in Albany, through an electronic monitoring system, before receiving their expense payments.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

Teachers from the Finger Lakes traveled to Albany Friday to deliver 1,000 local apples to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The purpose was not to share in the bounty of the agricultural region, but to make a point about what they say is the governor’s lack of commitment to school spending.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO file photo

 There’s just about a week-and-a-half left before the budget deadline, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers remain at odds over a number of issues, including whether ethics disclosure rules should apply to the governor as well as the legislature. They also disagree on a number of education reform proposals.

On Thursday, the Senate and Assembly called a public budget conference meeting. It lasted less than two minutes, and focused mainly on listing when subconference committees would meet and the relatively small amount of money they could haggle over.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the speaker of the Assembly say they hope the state Senate will sign on to their joint proposal for ethics reform, as a new poll finds the governor with dropping job approval numbers.

Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie took the unusual step of calling their ethics measure a deal, even though they need the Senate to agree to the plan in order for it to become law.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

A new poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo is at his lowest ranking since taking office, with signs that the governor’s feud with the teacher’s union is taking a toll.

Cuomo’s job approval rating stands at 50 percent, down 8 points just from last December, before the legislative session began and the governor began a more public feud with the state’s teachers unions, says Quinnipiac University spokesman Mickey Carroll.

“It’s not very good,” said Carroll. “A governor should do better than 50."

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Democrats announced a two-way deal on ethics reform late Tuesday, that they say will require full disclosure of outside income for state lawmakers. Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie say they will not be releasing details until later Wednesday, but Cuomo says he's very pleased with the agreement.

Colleen / via Flickr

One of the most polarizing issues in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget is an education tax credit that would allow donors of up to $1 million to public and private schools to receive a tax benefit. Opponents say it benefits the rich, supporters say it helps poor children.  

Under the provisions of the education tax credit proposed by Cuomo, people and businesses can donate up to $1 million to a scholarship fund to send underprivileged children to private schools, or support enhanced programs at public schools. They would receive 75 percent of the money back in the form of a tax credit.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Republican rival in last fall’s election is offering his take on political dynamics at the state Capitol. And it is not a positive viewpoint .

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino was at the Capitol to lobby, along with the New York State Association of Counties, for items in the new state budget, including more mandate relief. The former unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor, says its Cuomo now who is losing political power and friends, calling the governor Cuomo a “bully.”

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

 

State lawmakers are moving ahead with approving some portions of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act, now that  supporters are no longer demanding that all of the items, including an abortion rights provision, be tied together.

Cuomo campaigned last fall , along with his running mate, and now Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul on passing all ten of the provisions in his Women’s Equality Act,  including a measure to codify into state law the rights included in the federal Roe v. Wade decision.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Legislative leaders say despite their differences with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, they intend to continue their streak of on time budgets by approving the spending plan on time for the fifth year in a row.

Mixy Lorenzo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reversed a policy that would have resulted in all emails by state officials and New York employees being deleted after 90 days.

Cuomo made the decision to end the newly enforced policy, after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that he would end the 90-day deletion policy for his office. It was first put in place when in 2007 when Cuomo was attorney general and Eliot Spitzer was governor, and when it was technologically much more difficult to store vast numbers of emails.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Pressure is mounting to include Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the only female legislative leader, in  the closed-door budget meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that now consist of four men in a room.

The Black, Hispanic and Asian Caucus issued a statement saying it’s unacceptable to leave the senator, who is African-American out, and Stewart-Cousins spoke up at a public summit meeting for all of the legislative leaders, known as the "mothership budget committee," saying the process is “greatly flawed.”

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

  Gov. Andrew  says he wants ethics reform as part of the budget or he will hold up the state’s spending plan, while legislators say they want to negotiate the issue separately. Government reform groups say the key issue is that the reforms be real.   

Cuomo is threatening to make the budget late over an ethics reform package that the governor is seeking.  He repeated his demand this week at a business lunch in Rochester.

“This year a top priority is having ethics reform done in Albany,” Cuomo said. “Because at one point, enough is enough.”

New York Now

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie gave his first broadcast interview to public radio and television. In it, he expressed his frustrations over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to link numerous unrelated items to the state budget.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

In the latest step in the state budget dance, both houses have released their versions of a state spending plan. The Senate and Assembly each increase education well above Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed level, and each leave key elements of the governor’s plan out.

Both the Assembly and the Senate significantly increase school aid spending from Cuomo’s budget, with the Assembly recommending a $1.8 billion increase, and the Senate proposing $1.9 billion more.

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

The New York State Assembly and Senate are each rejecting key proposals in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget. Both chambers are submitting what's called one-house budgets -- their counter proposals to the governor's spending plan.

In the Assembly, where Democrats hold the majority, the one-house budget does not include Cuomo’s education tax credit, which would allow donors to give money to the private or public school of their choice and receive nearly full credit for the donation on their state taxes.

Cuomo criticized for 90-day email deletion policy

Mar 10, 2015
stgermh / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been getting some bipartisan criticism from state lawmakers over an email policy that erases all electronic correspondence of state employees after 90 days.

The policy to delete the emails of state employees after three months has been in place for some time, but is only now being enforced. It was revealed during a recent budget hearing, where Cuomo’s Chief Information Officer Maggie Miller testified before skeptical state lawmakers .

stgermh / Flickr

The New York state budget might end up in court under some potential scenarios, as state lawmakers are discussing possible legal action against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget, and his proposal to link a number of unrelated items, like ethics reform and education changes, to the spending plan.

Cuomo’s budget includes unrelated topics like ethics reform, as well as numerous education policy changes that he’s linked to school aid increases.  And the governor says he’ll hold up the budget past the due date if legislators don’t agree.  

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

It was the charter schools’ turn to rally at the state Capitol Wednesday in support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to allow 100 more charter schools in New York.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking credit for the state budget’s turnaround from huge gaps to healthy surpluses, but a watchdog group says Cuomo is relying on future funds that have not yet materialized.

Cuomo often lists his achievements as governor when he gives speeches. He likes to recount how he turned the state’s finances around, as he did in his inaugural address earlier this year.

“We turned a $10 billion deficit into a $5 billion surplus,” Cuomo said then.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

Hundreds of teachers are rallied at the state Capitol late Monday, saying they are calling out Gov. Andrew Cuomo for what they say is his anti-public school agenda.

The teachers, including New York State United Teachers Union Vice President Andy Pallotta, say Cuomo has declared a war on students, parents, and teachers, and is advancing a “test and punish” agenda.

“He has no respect for public education,” Pallotta shouted, as the crowd cheered.

Colleen / via Flickr

Teachers have been holding rallies all around the state protesting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education proposals, and hundreds are expected to converge on the Capitol late Monday to protest over reliance on standardized tests, and other issues. Cuomo has called the teachers unions part of a “bloated bureaucracy” that he says needs to be broken. He wants teacher performance reviews to rely more on standardized test results, and he’d like 100 more charter schools in New York.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

Newly-elected Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie made clear one of his top priorities in his first news conference, where he called for passage of the Dream Act, which would offer college aid to children of undocumented immigrants.

Heastie says when it comes to helping young New Yorkers with paying for college, there’s a double standard.

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