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

Mike Mozart / Flickr

Cheap gas prices are making consumers happy at the pump, but not everyone is benefiting from the lower prices. New York’s counties, who impose a sales tax on gasoline, have lost over $200 million in revenues.

The state of New York also charges a gasoline tax, but it’s a uniform rate of 8 cents per gallon. Counties charge a 4 percent sales tax on the price of gas.

Stephen Aquario, with the New York State Association of Counties, said they see less revenue when the price plunges from $4 a gallon to $2 a gallon, which is the average rate right now.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has released a report that it said shows the benefits of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next few years. Business groups charge the study is biased.

Cuomo has been pushing hard for a phased in $15 an hour minimum wage, putting the proposal into his state budget and campaigning for the measure with Vice President Joe Biden.

“Every working man and woman in the state of New York deserves $15 an hour as a minimum wage,” Cuomo shouted at rally last fall.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Local governments and schools say they are struggling over a property tax cap that will allow what amounts to a zero percent increase in tax levies in the coming year. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo says they’ll likely have to stick with those rules.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo offered a rationale for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy over that of Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, saying Clinton’s approach is more practical.

Cuomo, who was HUD Secretary under former President Bill Clinton and who is helping Hillary Clinton’s election efforts in New York, says the former Secretary of State is presenting ideas that are “more realistic” that could actually be enacted if she were president.

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The U.S. Attorney who convicted both of the leaders of the legislature came to Albany Monday to speak to a conference of the state’s mayors. But Preet Bharara was not invited to the State Capitol itself, and he did not meet directly with any lawmakers, even though Bharara and Governor Cuomo attended the same event, the swearing in of the state’ new chief judge.

Bharara addressed mayors from all over the state, gathered for their annual meeting, where he told them the point of his anti-corruption work is to “protect democracy.”

Karen Dewitt / WRVO file photo

Senate Democrats are optimistic about their chances for winning a special election in April to replace convicted ex-Senate Leader Dean Skelos .

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, in an interview with public radio and television,  predicts the Democratic candidate in the race for the Skelos seat, Assemblyman and former prosecutor  Todd Kaminsky, will do “quite well”, and represents “a break from the past”.

“Which frankly, voters out there deserve and need,” Stewart Cousins said.

Kaminsky faces Republican Attorney Chris McGrath.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

A left leaning thank tank is out with its assessment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget. They say there’s a lot to like and dislike about it.

Ron Deutsch is with Fiscal Policy Institute, a progressive leaning think tank in part funded by the unions. He said Cuomo deserves credit for pushing a phase in for a $15 minimum wage for all low income earners in the state.

“It would be the first in the nation,” Deutsch said. “We think now is the time to get that done.”

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The issue of whether to tax the wealthiest New Yorkers at a higher rate is once again a topic at the State Capitol. Assembly Democrats are out with a tax plan that would redistribute some tax revenue from the richest to the poorest New Yorkers.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Assembly approved a one-house bill to establish partial paid family leave in New York as Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled he will amend his proposal to provide more money to those who take the leave.

Advocates of paid family leave, who have been lobbying on the issue for years, say movement on the matter from the Assembly Democrats and Cuomo has given them new hope. Donna Dolan leads a coalition.

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A poll finds that voters overwhelmingly support a number of Gov. andrew Cuomo’s priorities for 2016, but New Yorkers still hold mixed views about the governor himself.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo gathered together the same union coalition who has joined him to back the $15 an hour minimum wage effort in the campaign style rally for his newest cause.

“Now is the time to pass paid family leave,” Cuomo told the cheering crowd.

The governor once again invited Vice President Joe Biden, who said family leave only works if it’s subsidized.  

“The neighborhood I’m from, which is a middle class neighborhood, I don’t know anybody who can go three months without a paycheck,” Biden said.

Ed Uthman / Flickr

Some lobbyists, as well as government reform groups, say a new rule approved by the state’s ethics commission that would require them to report contact with the news media in some cases, violates First Amendment rights and would have chilling effect.

The proposal by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) would require public relations consultants to file periodic reports with the commission detailing their calls to the news media if the purpose of the call is to promote an issue or point of view from a paid client.  

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

 

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia spent nearly four hours before the legislative budget committees Wednesday. Though there is currently a moment of calm as the state pulls back from some of the more controversial parts of the Common Core standards, her testimony revealed potential trouble later in the school year if the test boycott movement continues.

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Tensions between upstate state senators and the mayor of New York City were highlighted during a budget hearing on aid to local governments in Albany when lawmakers questioned the mayor for more than five hours.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

It’s been more than 40 years since the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing a women’s right to choose an abortion, but advocates say New York lawmakers have yet to translate the provisions of the landmark Supreme Court decision into law in the state.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Reform groups are giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo an A for effort on his ethics proposals, but they say some of them need to go further, and Cuomo needs to follow through and actually get the plans enacted into law.

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A budget watch dog group is giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo a mixed grade on his budget proposals, saying he’s done a good job reigning in spending, but is making a mistake by shifting some significant costs to New York City.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Senate held a confirmation hearing for  Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s choice for the state’s chief judge, Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore. Meanwhile, Cuomo appointed another nominee to fill the final vacancy on the court -- Michael Garcia, who as U.S. attorney, brought down former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Katie Keier / Flickr

Eight years after the stock market crash and the start of the recession, the New York state Senate leader say it’s time to get rid of a law that limits funding to some schools. The measure was created when the state had a $10 billion budget deficit now that the state is running  surpluses.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been touting a massive infrastructure plan, but budget experts say much of the funding for the projects, estimated to cost $100 billion,  remains unresolved, even with the release of Cuomo’s new budget plan. They also question what they say is a cost-shift from the state to New York City.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo got involved in the rhetoric of the GOP presidential debate, appearing on three morning TV news shows to defend New York against disparaging remarks made by candidate Ted Cruz in Thursday night's debate.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State speech was far less combative than in the past when it comes to education. But, education groups say while they are pleased that Cuomo has reversed his previous unpopular positions, they say his school aid funding proposal still falls short.

The governor, who has attacked components of the public school system as an “education bureaucracy” that must be broken, instead stuck to the positive in this year’s State of the State address.

“We will not rest until our K-12 system is the best in the nation,” Cuomo said.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his State of the State message and $143 billion budget spending plan, which includes nearly $1 billion more for schools next year and ethics reforms.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew is to deliver a joint State of the State and budget speech later today, during which the governor is expected to focus on ethics and education policies.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

One day before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address, where he is expected to address ethics issues after the criminal convictions of the two legislative leaders, some state legislators are already demanding reforms that would break up the power of the leadership.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to give his State of the State speech on Wednesday. The governor has already spent the past week rolling out a lengthy agenda for the New Year.

Cuomo has already announced more than a dozen separate proposals as part of a 10-day roll out of his agenda leading up to Wednesday’s formal speech. 

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo received a bit of good news just two days before he’s to give his State of the State address. The governor and his office have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the premature closing of an ethics commission.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has some big ideas for rebuilding the state’s neglected infrastructure. But, will it come with a big price tag?

Cuomo began the week with an ambitious proposal to add a third track to the Long Island Railroad, to cost around $1 billion. The governor also wants to spend $5 million on a feasibility study for a tunnel under Long Island Sound to either Connecticut or the Bronx or Westchester in New York.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The New York State Senate held a hearing on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Democrats support the phase in to a higher wage, many senators remain uncommitted.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The opening day of the legislative session featured talk of ethics reform, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo chose to be elsewhere, putting off his traditional State of the State message for another week, and giving speeches in Syracuse and New York City instead.

The Senate and Assembly convened  for the first time since both leaders of the legislature were convicted of multiple corruption charges in late 2015 and now face potentially decades in prison.

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