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

Jim Bowen / Flickr

An upstate business group is pleased with some portions of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2017 agenda, especially a plan to expand ride-hailing services.

Unshackle Upstate’s Greg Biryla said he’s relieved that there are no major proposals that would adversely affect employers this year, like last year’s minimum wage increase and requirement to provide paid family leave.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is offering his top attorneys to help defend detainees and their families affected by President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

More than a decade after the state’s highest court ordered New York lawmakers to spend billions more a year on schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his top aides are moving further away from ever fulfilling the order, critics say.

The New York Court of Appeals ruled in 2006 that many of the state’s schoolchildren were deprived of their constitutional right to a “sound, basic education” and that billions more needed to be spent on schools each year.

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State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is proposing new income tax brackets on New York’s wealthiest, with a top tax rate of over 10% on those making more than $100 million a year.

The new tax brackets proposed by Assembly Democrats would raise rates on those making more than a million dollars a year, as Gov. Cuomo has outlined in his budget. But new, higher rates would apply to those who make more than $5 million, $10 million or more, with a top bracket of 10.32% for New Yorkers who earn more than $100 million a year.

President Donald Trump revived the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access pipeline with a highly publicized executive order this week. In New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has quietly acted to further energy pipelines across the state.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The leader of the Senate Republicans said he’s not happy with what he said is over $800 million in new taxes and fees tucked away in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new state budget.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said he’s upset over about new proposed fees that a preliminary analysis shows total $803 million – with $250 million in new Department of Motor Vehicles fees alone.

Flanagan said he’s also not happy with the way Cuomo presented his spending plan to lawmakers. He said Cuomo failed to mention all of the new fees in a private briefing at the executive mansion.

Onasill ~ Bill Badzo / Flickr

One of the chief arguments over the state budget will be whether to renew an income tax surcharge on New York’s wealthiest.

The state is facing a $3.5 billion deficit, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to add a billion dollars to the state’s public schools. He also wants to offer free tuition at public colleges for families making less than $125,000 a year.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr (File Photo)

One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature economic development programs is being downsized in his new state budget. Start-Up NY is being rebranded as other economic development projects have suffered setbacks.

The Start-Up NY program — which offered 10 years of freedom from income, business and other taxes to companies that sought to begin a business on a college campus — initially was a centerpiece of Cuomo’s big plans for more jobs in upstate New York.

Melinda Shelton / Flickr

School funding advocates are concerned that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is setting up for another political battle over school aid next year in a little-noticed provision in his new state budget.

Tim Kremer is with the New York State School Boards Association, one of the groups worried about Cuomo’s proposal to end what’s known as the foundation aid formula in 2018. The formula was set up to address a decade-old court order known as the Campaign for Fiscal Equity that said the state was underfunding schools by billions of dollars.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget is not just facts and figures about what taxes to collect and how to spend them. Cuomo also has put unrelated changes into the spending plan — everything from allowing ride-hailing services to expand in the state to enacting ethics reforms.

From allowing Uber and Lyft outside of New York City to imposing term limits on lawmakers, the governor’s budget includes many items that normally would be considered policy changes and debated and approved in the regular part of the session.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Some state lawmakers are rejecting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to extend a tax on millionaires. Cuomo spent Tuesday rolling out his spending plan to individual groups of lawmakers in private briefings, then at night, released details to the public.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Some state lawmakers are rejecting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal to extend a tax on millionaires.

The spending plan was outlined to some lawmakers at a lunch at the governor’s mansion, but won’t be available to the public until later this evening.

Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan said he’s against a plan by Cuomo to once again extend the tax.

“I like cutting taxes,” Flanagan said.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is due to release his budget Tuesday. Revenues are down, and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act could cost the state billions of dollars. So what should residents expect?

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is due to release his budget on Tuesday, and agencies that work with those with intellectual disabilities are among those hoping for more funds. They say they need help to pay workers the new higher minimum wage.

New York’s minimum wage is going up over the next few years, to $15 eventually in New York City and lesser amounts upstate. Groups that provide services for the developmentally disabled rely on Medicaid reimbursements to pay their workers, and they say they’ll have a hard time meeting the higher wages without more money from the state.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ended his six-city State of the State tour, speaking for nine hours total, according to his estimates, and traveling over 1,200 miles — with one emergency helicopter landing thrown in for good measure.

But the departure from the traditional speech before lawmakers at the Capitol has its advantages and its drawbacks.

The governor began the multi-day rollout of his agenda right after the winter holidays during an appearance with Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), who is still popular among New Yorkers on the left after his presidential campaign.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo saved his ethics proposals for the last stop of his State of the State tour in Albany, where he released a 10-point plan to address rampant corruption that has reached his own administration.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing a plan that he says could cut property taxes in New York — by requiring county leaders to develop a cost-cutting plan and letting voters decide whether it’s a good idea.

As governor, Cuomo does not directly control local property taxes. But he wants to require county executives to do something about the state’s rates, which are highest in the nation. Under his plan, the county leaders would develop cost-cutting blueprints and put them on the ballot so voters could decide whether they want the reductions or not.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing that New York state allow ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft throughout the entire state.

File Photo
governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing something different with the State of the State this year. Instead of delivering a speech in Albany to lawmakers who will have to approve his proposals, he’s giving six mini speeches in three days all around the state. Legislative leaders will not be attending.

New York State Senate

The new year for the state legislature has begun in discord, with an absent governor and Republicans in the Senate vowing to take a harder line against Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

The year began without Cuomo, who abandoned the tradition of conducting a State of the State speech on the first day of the session in favor of giving a presentation on airport renovations to a group of business leaders in New York City. He’ll do speeches across the state later. 

sebastien.barre / Flickr

An ethics reform proposal quietly circulated between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders for a possible special session that also could include a pay raise is getting blasted by the state’s attorney general as possibly unconstitutional.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Advocates for the homeless say the governor and legislature don’t need to call a special session to free up more money to help create more housing for those in need. They say political leaders could simply sign an already printed memorandum of understanding and start helping people now.

Kevin O’Connor, director of Joseph’s House in Troy, read the names of homeless clients who have passed away in the past year – people he said died too young.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is bringing charges against a former portfolio manager in the state’s pension fund, saying he accepted bribes — that included prostitutes and illegal drugs —from two hedge fund brokers.

Matt Ryan / New York Now

In Albany’s own version of Groundhog Day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are still keeping open the possibility of a special session before the year ends that could include legalizing ride-sharing services statewide and a pay raise for lawmakers.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

New York members of the Electoral College met Monday in the Senate chamber at the State Capitol to cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton.

First among them was former President Bill Clinton, who blamed the FBI and the Russians for his wife’s defeat in the presidential race.

The former president voted for his spouse, Hillary Clinton, as did Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and other elected officials and politically connected Democrats from around the state, for a total of 29 votes.

Matt Ryan / New York Now

Discussions over a December special session has turned to finger pointing, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Republicans blame each other over lack of progress.

-JvL- / Flickr

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers hold a special session next week, they are likely to consider whether to allow ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City. 

Ride-sharing services have stepped up their lobbying and ad campaigns in hopes of winning approval to expand into upstate and on Long Island by the end of the year, including a $1 million campaign by Uber. The ad, in part, says, “There’s one thing New Yorkers really want for Christmas this year. And it isn’t a one-horse sleigh.”

CREDO.fracking / Flickr

Two years ago, the state banned hydrofracking of natural gas within the state’s borders. But a group of Cornell University scientists who study the effects of climate change say New Yorkers are using more natural gas than ever.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News file photo

New York state’s comptroller has a plan to reduce corruption in the awarding of economic development contracts that has led to the indictment of former associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was taken out of the review process for some state economic development contracts in a state law passed in 2011, and since then, a former top aide to Cuomo and a former key State University official, along with seven others, have been charged with bribery and bid-rigging, among other crimes.

Matt Ryan / New York Now

A committee of the New York State Board of Regents recommends spending $2.1 billion more on schools in the new state budget, saying it’s time to continue an effort begun a decade ago to funnel more money to the state’s poorest school districts.

The State Aid Subcommittee’s recommendations, which are expected to be approved by the full Board of Regents later Tuesday, would phase in, over three years, an annual increase of 7 percent on school funding, for a total of $2.1 billion more a year by the 2019-20 school year.

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