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.

Pages

9:06am

Mon December 30, 2013
Politics and Government

Taxes likely to top agenda for governor, state legislature

One of the top issues of the 2014 legislative session will be taxes. While Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to cut taxes, some -- including New York City Mayor elect Bill de Blasio -- want to raise them. 

In a year where Cuomo and all 213 of the state’s legislative seats are up for reelection, it’s not a big surprise that the legislative session would focus on tax cuts.

Cuomo appointed two tax commissions to study the issue, but even before they were finished, he was already signaling his intentions.

Read more

6:51am

Mon December 23, 2013
Health

Food pantries strained by federal cuts

A basket of food representing the $36 cut a month that food stamp recipients received beginning in early November.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

With winter officially here, New York’s food pantries and soup kitchens are feeling the strain of feeding the hungry, especially after two key benefit cuts from the federal government.

The FOCUS food pantry, sponsored by six Albany area churches, is located just a block away from the state Capitol.

Read more

2:19pm

Fri December 20, 2013
Politics and Government

Comptroller says state probably can afford tax cuts, but just barely

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says he’ll need to see more details and end of the calendar year state revenue figures before deciding whether the state can afford $2 billion in new tax cuts that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is likely to propose.

Governor Cuomo says he thinks if state spending is held to a 2 percent growth rate next year, there will be enough money in the state budget to finance $2 billion worth of property and business tax cuts.

Comptroller DiNapoli says he’s not so sure it will all add up.

Read more

8:21am

Fri December 20, 2013
Politics and Government

State comptroller's audit finds double dipping at state agencies

N.Y. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO

A new audit by the state comptroller finds that out of a sample of state workers at New York agencies and authorities, more than one fifth were double dipping, being paid for two jobs while only doing one.

Read more

7:55am

Thu December 19, 2013
Politics and Government

Bankrupt hydrofracking company sues Cuomo administration over delays

File photo
WBFO

A bankrupt energy company is suing the Cuomo administration over the long delayed decision on whether to allow hydrofracking in New York state. Their attorney says the action was prompted by remarks made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his health commissioner earlier this week.  

Norse Energy had once hoped to frack natural gas in New York’s Marcellus Shale. But they say as the Cuomo administration’s environmental review languished, they we're driven out of business. They say around $100 million in assets has been obliterated, along with 100 or so jobs.

Read more

7:53am

Wed December 18, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says reform is a priority, but not the first priority

File photo
Zack Seward WXXI

The new legislative session is just a few weeks away. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’ll still make anti-corruption measures a high priority as he did in 2013, but he’ll likely deal with economic issues, like proposed tax cuts, first.  

Cuomo tried unsuccessfully to get the legislature to enact reforms to the state’s dysfunctional campaign finance system. When they adjourned for the year back in June without acting he created an anti-corruption commission, using his powers under the state’s Moreland Act, and asked them to report recommendations before the end of the year.

Read more

7:57am

Tue December 17, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says hydrofracking decision may come after Election Day

File photo
Bosc d'Anjou Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he may not decide whether the state should go ahead with hydrofracking for natural gas until after the November 2014 election.

Cuomo, who previously said he’d decide on whether or not to okay the controversial drilling process known as fracking in New York before Election Day 2014, now says he wants to give his health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, all the time he needs to complete an ongoing health review, which began over a year ago.

“I don’t want to put any undue pressure on them that would artificially abbreviate what they’re doing,” said Cuomo.

Read more

7:28am

Tue December 17, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says reduced spending won't be needed to enact tax cuts

File photo
Ryan Delaney WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget director outlined more details of the governor’s tax commission's proposal to cut property and business taxes in the state.

Cuomo is under pressure from Republicans to cut income taxes, and from New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to raise income taxes on the rich. But he says the state, which already has a temporary income tax surcharge on the wealthy, needs to address its highest in the nation property taxes right now instead of personal income taxes, also known as the PIT.

Read more

7:47am

Thu December 12, 2013
Politics and Government

Factions form over Cuomo's tax commission plan

Divisions are forming in the upcoming debate over tax cuts that’s likely to dominate the new legislative session.  

Business groups are largely supportive of the findings of a tax commission appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The commission recommends cuts to the corporate tax, faster phase out of an energy tax and easing of the estate tax. They also propose a reduction in property taxes by encouraging local governments and schools to cut spending and consolidate.

Read more

7:33am

Wed December 11, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo tax commission would cut $2 billion in property, business taxes

File photo
Ryan Delaney WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax commission is recommending a $2 billion package that includes a temporary freeze on property taxes, and a cut in corporate taxes to a 40 year low.  

Read more

7:46am

Tue December 10, 2013
Politics and Government

Reform groups focus on state Board of Elections

Reform groups are focusing attention on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission’s recommendations to beef up the anemic state Board of Elections, but say they have not given up hope of public campaign financing for state wide races.

The reform groups say the state Board of Elections in its present form is useless and incompetent when it comes to enforcing campaign violations, and needs to be replaced.

Blair Horner is with the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Read more

8:16am

Mon December 9, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo's tax commission report delayed

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s commission to study tax cuts has missed its December 6 deadline to report it’s findings, after facing controversy over former Gov. George Pataki’s desire to cut income taxes for all wage earners, including the wealthy.  

Although the tax commission has now bogged down over co-chairman George Pataki’s push to lower income tax rates, its original charge was to look at ways to lower New York’s highest in the nation property taxes, as well as find ways to reduce business taxes.

Read more

8:12am

Thu December 5, 2013
Politics and Government

Future of public campaign finance uncertain

One of the most controversial recommendations in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission report released this week is to enact public financing of campaigns for statewide elections.

The majority of the 25 Moreland Act commissioners say a public campaign finance system modeled on New York City’s matching donor system is the only way to curb the undue influence of big money donors in state government.

Read more

7:40am

Wed December 4, 2013
Politics and Government

Moreland Commission report draws reaction from both sides

Matt Wade Flickr

Advocates and lawmakers at the New York Capitol are reacting to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission report. It offers scathing criticism of what the commission says is a corrupt culture in Albany, and recommends numerous reforms.

The Moreland Act Commissioners offer withering criticism of what they say is a pervasive culture of illegal corruption and what they call legalized bribery ingrained in a campaign finance system where large donors hold sway over which legislation gets approved, and which bills are suppressed.

Read more

8:40am

Tue December 3, 2013
Politics and Government

Moreland Commission recommends public campaign financing, other reforms

Wallyg Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission issued a scathing report Monday evening that criticizes what the commission says is Albany’s culture of corruption and recommends numerous reforms.

The Moreland Act Commissioners describe their report as a blueprint to fix what they say is the pervasive dysfunction in Albany.

Read more

6:27am

Tue November 26, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo criticizes state lawmakers fighting subpoenas on outside income

File photo
Zack Seward WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has some harsh words for state lawmakers who are fighting his commission in court regarding subpoenas that would force legislators to reveal their outside business with private legal clients.

Cuomo says state lawmakers fighting the subpoenas are acting like they are concealing something.

“Those that have nothing to hide, disclose,” Cuomo said. “Those that don’t, have an issue.”

Read more

8:25am

Mon November 25, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo appears to distance himself from Common Core

James F Clay Flickr

Is Gov. Andrew Cuomo backing away from his support for the new Common Core curriculum in schools? In recent days, Cuomo seems to have cooled from his initial endorsement of the rapid transition to the adoption of the national education standards.  

Everywhere Cuomo goes these days, he’s dogged by questions from reporters about what’s widely perceived as a rocky start up for New York state’s adoption of the new national Common Core standards for school children.

Cuomo was asked essentially the same question in recent days in stops from Buffalo to Lake Placid.

Read more

8:00am

Mon November 25, 2013
Politics and Government

State lawmakers fight Cuomo commission subpoenas in court

Leaders of the New York state legislature are in court fighting a request from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ethics commission that they turn over details about their private law clients.

Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans are asking a state Supreme Court Judge to quash subpoenas from Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission, demanding they reveal details of private law clients who pay them more than $20,000 a year. Their attorneys are arguing that it’s unconstitutional for the governor to directly investigate the legislature and it violates the separation of powers.

Read more

7:31am

Fri November 22, 2013
Health

State cancer groups ask for more money to promote smoking cessation programs

DucDigital Flickr

Thursday was the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, an effort begun by anti-cancer groups nearly four decades ago to help people quit smoking. This year the American Cancer Society in New York used the day to call attention to a decline in state spending on anti-smoking programs.

Read more

7:43am

Thu November 21, 2013
Education

Education commissioner faces bipartisan grilling by members of state Assembly

The state’s Education Commissioner John King faced a bi-partisan grilling by liberal and conservative  members of the Assembly at a hearing regarding growing concerns about student privacy.

As part of the conversion to the national Common Core standards, school districts in New York are required to place more student records, transcripts, and even behavioral information, like absences and suspensions, in online data bases. The data collection is in many cases run by a private vendor, not the local school or the state education department.  

Read more

7:14am

Wed November 20, 2013
Politics and Government

Progressive groups weigh in on tax reform

Taxes and tax reform are likely to be a major topic in the next legislative session, which begins in seven weeks. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is relying on two separate commissions for ideas about tax changes, while progressive groups and Republicans in the State Senate are also weighing in.

Read more

3:01pm

Mon November 18, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo's job performance hits all-time low in poll

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approval rating is the lowest it’s been since taking office, according to a new poll. The Siena College survey also finds many New Yorkers are split regarding the implementation of the new Common Core standards in schools.  

The Siena College poll finds only 44% of voters like the job that Cuomo is doing as governor. A small majority, 56 percent, say he’s doing a fair or poor job. Siena’s Steve Greenberg says it’s the first time the governor’s approval rating has dipped below 50 percent.  

Read more

8:25am

Mon November 18, 2013
Politics and Government

Landowners to file lawsuit against hydrofracking delays

File Photo
WBFO

A landowners group says it intends to file a lawsuit before the end of the year against what it says are the Cuomo administration’s unreasonable delays on hydrofracking.

Read more

6:20am

Fri November 15, 2013
Politics and Government

Groups call for ban on standardized testing for young children

Katie Keier Flickr

A coalition of unions and government reform groups are calling for a ban on standardized testing for New York’s school children in second grade and younger.

In a teleconference, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said it’s absurd that the groups are even in the position of calling for a ban on standardized testing for children in pre-kindergarten through the second grade. Mulgrew and others say the tests are inappropriate for four to seven year olds, and should never have been implemented in the first place.

Read more

8:16am

Thu November 14, 2013
Politics and Government

Senators hear more complaints about Common Core

New York state’s Teacher of the Year testified at a state Senate hearing that even she could not receive high marks in her teacher evaluation process, due to what she and others say is the dysfunctional implementation of the new Common Core standards.

Read more

7:23am

Wed November 13, 2013
Politics and Government

Calls for public campaign finance system include a Moreland Commission co-chairman

Advocacy groups are encouraged by recent statements made by the co-chairman of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission, who says he now favors public financing of political campaigns.

Syracuse-area Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick is the co-chairman of Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission, and says he has become a convert to using public funds to finance political campaigns.

Read more

8:02am

Tue November 12, 2013
Politics and Government

Nearing start of 2014 campaign season, Cuomo yet to have an announced opponent

File photo
Ryan Delaney WRVO

Now that this year’s elections are over, the political world is gearing up for the 2014 contests. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to seek another term, and so far no one has officially said they will run against him.  

Cuomo sounded like he was in campaign mode the day after Election Day, when he celebrated the passage of a casino gambling amendment that he pushed.

“Are we fired up?” Cuomo asked a cheering crowd.

Cuomo focused on an important issue for any candidate - economic development - which he says the new casinos will bring.

Read more

7:37am

Mon November 11, 2013
Politics and Government

Despite projected budget gap, Cuomo seeking tax cuts

401(K) 2012 Flickr

Now that the elections are over, state budget deadlines are rapidly approaching. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has released a largely positive budget outlook for the new year, though he warns of some uncertainties.

Under reforms adopted a few years ago, state officials including the  comptroller, are required to start the budget process, which ends in late March, even earlier.

DiNapoli is out with his report, and he says the state budget is largely in balance.

Read more

8:12am

Fri November 8, 2013
Politics and Government

Women's Equality Act campaign restarts for 2014

The 2013 legislative session ended in June.
Wallyg Flickr

A coalition of women’s groups is relaunching the Women’s Equality Act, which failed in the legislature earlier this year, with a new strategy that they say could help them win passage in 2014.

The Women’s Equality Act coalition has a new website and are organizing through social media. It's also produced a video using humor to connect with supporters.

Read more

8:18am

Thu November 7, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo touts casino amendment win

Patja Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not lose any time in publicizing a win on a gambling expansion amendment in Tuesday’s voting. The governor made two public appearances in regions that are now authorized to build resort style casinos.

In what amounted to a post election victory lap, Cuomo celebrated the passage of the casino gambling amendment in the Catskills with a crowd of business, labor and local government officials. He called it a huge win.

“This is a game changer,” Cuomo said. “It means jobs. It means business. It means getting the economy running.”

Read more

Pages