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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Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

A new Siena College poll finds that half of New Yorkers support a growing movement for parents to opt their children out of state standardized tests. As many as 20 percent boycotted the third through eighth grade math and English exams given earlier in April.

Melinda Shelton / Flickr

Less than a month after it was enacted, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new teacher evaluation plan seems to be in jeopardy, with the Regents chancellor calling for a year’s delay and a key senator saying the legislature needs to revisit the issue.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Earth Day 2015 is also the day the New York State Assembly began its transition to a paperless system. Assemblymembers have been given iPads to read bills electronically, and supporters say it will save millions of dollars, and trees.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle announced the change on the Assembly floor.

“Today we begin officially with tablets,” Morelle said.

Getting rid of the piles of paper that clutter members’ desks each day required a Constitutional Amendment, which voters approved last fall. 

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News File Photo

The final stretch of the New York state legislative session began as more accusations arose about potential wrongdoing by top legislative leaders.

The session began with a closed door meeting by Senate Republicans, the first time that the majority party members met together since the publication of a New York Times report that says federal prosecutors are investigating Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and his son, for possible corruption.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The head of the state’s largest teachers union predicts that the legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo will have to revisit new teacher evaluation laws passed as part of the state budget, now that almost one fifth of students have opted out of the tests.

New York State United Teacher’s President Karen Magee says the boycott of the third through eighth grade English tests by nearly 20 percent of New York’s students will undermine the new teacher evaluation system that relies more heavily on the controversial standardized tests.  

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The New York state legislature returns for the second half of the legislative session, once again under a cloud of corruption, and with numerous unsettled issues.

The session begins Tuesday, after the spring break, and this time it’s the leader of the Senate who is the focus of a federal corruption probe. State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos confirmed that he’s the target of an investigation, after The New York Times reported that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has convened a grand jury that is looking into some of the senator’s business dealings, as well as those of his son.

NY Assembly Video (file)

The recently completed state budget was the first real test of the new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s leadership, who became the leader of that house in early February. 

By the time the state budget was voted on,  Heastie, the 47-year-old accountant and former budget analyst from the Bronx, elected to the Assembly in 2000, had  been in his new job for less than two months .

biologycorner / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature approved some significant changes to the state’s education system and how teachers are evaluated going forward. But, before those policies can be implemented, the new system faces a big test -- literally -- later this month.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

The New York legislature completed an almost on time budget, around 3 a.m. on the first day of the state’s fiscal year.

One of the final pieces to come together was an ethics reform package, which will provide greater disclosure of lawmaker’s outside income.

But critics say it does not go far enough.

The ethics changes would deny pensions for lawmakers convicted of serious crimes. The provision requires a constitutional amendment. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers finalized deals on education and ethics and passed the budget early Wednesday.

Legislators began passing the final budget bills in the late afternoon, with only a few hours left until the deadline. The Senate passed the spending plan before the midnight deadline, while the Assembly finished voting just before 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Even before the final details of the education changes in the budget are revealed, teachers’ unions are already claiming partial victory in their war of words with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Chris Nelson / via Flickr

State lawmakers have not yet finished the budget, but they are already getting blowback from a provision that would give a tax break to owners of luxury yachts.

The budget includes a sales tax break for purchases of boats worth more than $230,000, as well as for private airplanes. That angers Ron Deutsch, of Fiscal Policy Institute,  a union backed think tank that backs Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to give a property tax break for middle and working class homeowners who pay too much of their income on taxes.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo began the budget season with an ambitious agenda than included a wide array of items that he tied to the budget, including raising the minimum wage, the Dream Act, and reforming the state’s grand jury process. In the end, the governor was forced to retrench on nearly every measure.

Cuomo spent a week in January rolling out his ambitious budget agenda, which contained plans for a new criminal justice system for teens who commit serious crimes and a major upstate economic development program. 

stgermh / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders reached a framework agreement for a budget deal late Sunday night and hope to begin passing bills today to meet the midnight Tuesday deadline.

There are still some details to be worked out, including the specific amounts of school aid to each district in the state from a $1.5 billion increase, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says the deal is mostly complete.

stgermh / Flickr

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.

stgermh / Flickr

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.