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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governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out a series of proposals for reforming the state’s criminal justice system, in response to heightened tensions over the death of an unarmed Staten Island resident after an encounter with police, as well as the recent murder of two police officers

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his joint State of the State and budget message, proposing a $141.6 billion spending plan that in part sets up a show down with teachers and education advocates.

The governor wants 100 more charter schools and an overhaul of teacher evaluations, which he says are “baloney,” because virtually all teachers are rated as adequate.

“Ninety-eight percent of the teachers rated effective,” Cuomo said. “Who are we kidding, my friends?”

Doug Kerr / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued the roll out of his 2015 agenda Tuesday with details of an infrastructure plan that includes upgrading New York City region airports to providing broadband for upstate rural areas.

The governor also offered clues to another key item, education, where he seems determined to take on the status quo.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has spent the days leading up to this joint State of the State and budget message rolling out a number of new programs and proposals, including an anti-poverty agenda that includes raising the minimum wage, and tax cuts for small businesses.

Cuomo says as part of his budget, he’ll include a new phased-in increase of the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour by the end of 2016. In New York City, the rate would rise to $11.50 an hour. The governor says New York City is arguably “the most expensive market” in the U.S.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives his budget address next Wednesday, the state will begin the year with a $5 billion surplus -- a big change after years of budget deficits.

When Cuomo first came into office, the state was facing a $10 billion budget gap. Now, in 2015, the state has a $5 billion surplus, the largest since the 1940s.  The money is a one time windfall from various bank settlements over charges of improprieties during the financial crisis.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to invest $1.5 billion to help the struggling upstate economy, but there’s a catch -- regions will have to compete for the money.

Cuomo says his budget plan will include an upstate revitalization fund, but it won’t be distributed to all of the state’s economically depressed regions. Instead, the seven regions will be competing for a share of the funds. The rules are: only three will receive grants of $500 million each.

“Why the competition?” Cuomo asked rhetorically. “Because I believe in competition.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Calling it the major problem facing the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to reduce New York’s highest in the nation rate of property taxes for some homeowners, but the program was not received with open arms by everyone.

Under Cuomo’s proposal, homeowners who pay six percent or more of their annual paychecks in taxes will get a credit on their tax bills. Renters will also receive an equivalent credit.

Wallyg / via Flickr

Women’s rights bills were once again debated in the legislature, but ended in a political stalemate, with none of the provisions coming any closer to passage by both houses.

For years, Republicans in the state Senate, Democrats in the state Assembly, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have bickered over a package of bills known as the Women’s Equality Act. They include an equal pay provision, anti-sex trafficking and anti-domestic violence measures.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO

Hundreds of school children, parents, union organizers and leaders came to the Capitol in Albany to rally for more money for New York’s schools. The event was part of what’s become known as the Moral Monday movement.

imarcc / Flickr

Up to 1,000 people, including the president of New York’s NAACP, Hazel Dukes, will hold a rally at the Capitol today to try to convince state  lawmakers to fulfill a 2006 court order to spend billions more dollars on New York’s schools each year.

The groups say to fulfill the court order, schools need an addition $6 billion a year, with a greater share going to the poorest schools

Chris Ford / Flickr

The legislative session is off to a subdued start, with the governor’s State of the State message delayed for two weeks. Nevertheless, fault lines are already forming over some key issues, including rent regulations and how to measure teacher performance.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News File Photo

The New York State Senate and Assembly met in Albany to choose new leaders and begin outlining their plans for the 2015 session. The year begins with Republicans in full control of the state Senate, but with a group of breakaway Democrats still enjoying special status.

The State of the State has been delayed for two weeks, due to the funeral of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, the father of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But under New York’s state’s constitution, the legislature is still required to convene.   

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo was laid to rest in New York today after a funeral and wake that was attended by prominent politicians, including former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vice President Joe Biden.

But the ceremony and the eulogy by his son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, focused on the personal as well as the political. Cuomo called his father “the keynote speaker for our better angels.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Education will be a big issue in 2015. Lines are already drawn between public school teachers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the charter school movement.

Before the New Year even began, the state’s largest teachers union was already making its displeasure with Cuomo known, by protesting outside the governor’s mansion.

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) President Karen Magee says teachers are angry over what they see as the governor's increasingly negative view of their union and the public education system in general.  

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

In addition to attending his father’s funeral, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will also be preparing for a State of the State address over the next several days.

The governor had scheduled to deliver the annual speech on Jan. 7, the day the legislature returns to session, as is traditional. But the governor and legislative leaders agreed to postpone the State of the State to Jan. 21 because of the extenuating circumstances of former Gov. Mario Cuomo's death.

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo died on New Year’s Day, just hours after his son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, gave his inaugural address for his second term in office. Mario Cuomo was 82.

Mario Cuomo, born to immigrant parents who ran a grocery store in Queens, almost became a major league baseball player, before entering law school and turning to politics. He was lieutenant governor under Hugh Carey, and won a Democratic primary against then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch to become governor of New York in 1982.  

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent his inauguration day in New York City and Buffalo, where he spoke about fixing the criminal justice system and welcomed Western New York native and the new Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul into his administration.

Cuomo, at the recently finished World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, gave his address in the midst of strife over the police killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed citizen in State Island who was selling illegal cigarettes, and the murder of two police officers.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is forgoing the traditional inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the state’s capitol, in favor of smaller events today in New York City and Buffalo, where he will give his inaugural speech.

Cuomo did hold an open house at the governor’s mansion in Albany on New Year’s Eve, where he chatted with members of the public who were drawn by a lottery to attend. He says he wanted to shake things up a bit by holding inaugural events in other places.

Karen DeWitt

Teachers union members and pro-charter school advocates demonstrated outside the governor’s mansion on New Year’s Eve, as inside, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his partner Sandra Lee greeted guests who won a lottery attend an annual open house, one day before the governor is to begin his second term.

azipaybarah / Flickr

A government reform group is considering filing a complaint with a state ethics panel over a story in the New York Times that says the Assembly speaker is under federal investigation for failing to disclose pay he received from a law firm.

Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), says he’d like to hear from Speaker Sheldon Silver about the details of the speaker’s alleged payments from a law firm specializing in real estate taxes.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO/file photo

The state is losing its education commissioner, as John King takes a job with the Obama administration. King was in charge of school policies during a tumultuous time, and he admits there are things he could have done better.

King is leaving after five and a half years to become assistant U.S. education secretary under Arne Duncan. In an interview with public radio and TV, King says he hopes his legacy in New York will be his intense focus on getting the Common Core learning standards push started in the state.

Wallyg / via Flickr

A new poll finds New Yorkers don’t want legislators to gain a pay raise if they agree to ethics reforms by the end of the year.

The Siena College poll finds that 63 percent of New Yorkers oppose a pay raise for state lawmakers, who earn a base salary of nearly $80,000 a year for what is technically a part-time job. 

Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg says voters also say, even though they would like to see reform measures as well as other issue resolved, they still don’t think legislators should be allowed to trade agreements on these items for more pay.

Brett Levin / Flickr

Cuomo administration officials who are devising regulations for medical marijuana in New York say it’s unlikely any patients in the state will get the drug before 2016.  They say they are working through the details of how to implement the program, but there are still many unanswered questions.

Aides to Cuomo say they’ve made some progress on figuring out how to manage a medical marijuana system that is still technically illegal in the United States.

The preliminary rules on how to carry out New York’s medical marijuana program are due by the end of the year.

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has written a letter to state education officials, saying he wants answers on why 99 percent of teachers scored highly on the most recent evaluations, while other data shows two-thirds of school children performing below acceptable levels in math and English.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Environmentalists are celebrating after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there will be no hydrofracking in New York for now, citing inconclusive scientific evidence on the health effects of the gas drilling process.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

A reform group studied votes taken by local governments across the state on whether to allow hydrofracking, and found numerous potential conflicts of interest that they say could have tainted the outcome of the votes.

The New York Public Interest Research Group studied 59 municipalities that voted to permit hydrofracking in the past few years, if New York state eventually approves the process. They found numerous questionable activities, including locally elected officials holding gas leases and town attorneys who also represented oil and gas companies.

It’s looking less and less likely that state senators and Assembly members will get a pay raise as a holiday present this year, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers still have a number of issues they need to resolve before the year ends, ranging from the siting of gambling casinos to how to close a Thruway deficit and whether to go ahead with hydrofracking.

William Hartz / Flickr

A state panel is examining whether workers whose income is supplemented by tips should receive an increase in the minimum wage. The wage board, appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has held hearings and will make its decision early next year.

Wallyg / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo tamped down hopes for a special session of the legislature before the year ends, saying legislative leaders have still not agreed to ethics reforms that the governor is seeking. Cuomo says he also wants more time to develop a comprehensive criminal justice reform package.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

New York state Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy gave what was likely his last public address at an awards ceremony for the Regional Economic Development Councils, where he was praised by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others.  

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