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

6:25am

Fri February 14, 2014
Education

Pre-K funding fight fuels upstate-downstate divide

James F Clay Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo seems to have gained the upper hand and some new allies in his policy skirmish with New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio over how to fund pre-kindergarten, as the fight threatens to turn into an upstate downstate split.

DeBlasio has been seeking permission from Cuomo and the legislature to raise income taxes on the wealthy in New York City in order to pay for access to pre-kindergarten for almost 75,000 four-year-olds there, arguing that it would help ease income inequality.

Read more

3:49pm

Thu February 13, 2014
Politics and Government

Winter snowstorms blow through state budget

file photo
Some rights reserved by digital Battuta

Gov. Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for nearly all of Eastern New York including New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley into Albany, as another winter storm hits the region.

The governor says the frequency of storms this winter has depleted the state’s budget for plowing, sanding and salting, but he says his budget staff will find the money from other parts of the budget to deal with the storm and potential future storms this year.

Read more

5:16pm

Wed February 12, 2014
Education

Poll intensifies Cuomo-deBlasio debate over pre-K funding

A new poll finds that New Yorkers statewide favor Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to fund pre-kindergarten over New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio’s proposal.

The Quinnipiac poll finds that the majority of New Yorkers prefer Cuomo’s plan to finance expanded pre-K through state funds, than favor deBlasio’s proposal to tax the wealthy to get the money.

Read more

6:59am

Wed February 12, 2014
Politics and Government

Pre-K funding fight not letting up at state Capitol

The debate regarding universal pre-kindergarten shows no signs of slowing down at the New York Capitol. The Democratic Mayor of New York City is not backing down from his plan to tax the wealthy to pay for pre-K, while upstate and suburban Republicans in the state Senate say they will block a vote on the tax proposal.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, in his State of the City address, stuck to his plan to continue to ask state lawmakers for permission to tax the wealthy to fund universal pre-K. De Blasio says he’s not advocating for a statewide income tax hike.   

Read more

7:06pm

Tue February 11, 2014
Politics and Government

Regents delay vote on teacher protections portion of Common Core changes

Thomas Favre-Bulle via Flickr

The New York State Board of Regents at the last minute reversed course and decided not to hold a final vote on some changes to weaken implementation of the Common Core standards in New York.  

The Regents were set to vote to delay the effects of Common Core on high school seniors for five more years, until 2022, and to offer teachers some protections if they are fired during the next two years.

Read more

7:51am

Tue February 11, 2014
Education

State Board of Regents takes step back on Common Core

State Education Commissioner John King testifies during a public hearing in October. (file photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO/file photo

The state Board of Regents is poised to delay some requirements of the federal Common Core standards. But some state lawmakers are still questioning whether the Regents are going far enough to remedy what critics say is a flawed rollout of the new standards.

The Board of Regents, facing pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature, is recommending that the effects of the new high stakes testing on students, designed in response to the Common Core, be delayed for five more years.

Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch, in a statement, offered an apology.

Read more

7:40am

Mon February 10, 2014
Politics and Government

Tax hearing set for Monday

Wallyg Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax commissioner is set to testify before a legislative budget hearing Monday morning, and he’s expected to get plenty of questions about a plan to freeze property taxes and cut some income taxes. Critics, who are also scheduled to speak, say the governor should focus more on lower income New Yorkers, as well.

Read more

7:30am

Mon February 10, 2014
Politics and Government

Supporters push for GMO labeling bill

Sponsors of a bill to require the labeling of genetically modified foods, or GMO's, say they hope they have better luck this year advancing the legislation after it died in committee late last session.

The bill would require that all genetically engineered food sold in New York be clearly labeled. Assembly Sponsor Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat, says the measure would give consumers the choice of whether they want to buy genetically altered food, or not.

Read more

7:07am

Thu February 6, 2014
Politics and Government

Lawmakers skeptical medical marijuana program can be ready in a year

The Cuomo administration is moving ahead with a bill to allow limited access to medical marijuana. The governor's health commissioner told lawmakers at a budget hearing that the program could be up and running within a year, but his claims were met with some skepticism.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, told lawmakers at a recent budget hearing that he prefers the governor’s plan for limited medical marijuana in New York, rather than a broader program backed by some in the legislature.

Read more

6:40am

Wed February 5, 2014
Politics and Government

Legislative leaders call for delay in Common Core standards

James F Clay Flickr

The leaders of the New York state legislature are urging the state Board of Regents to delay the effects of the new federal Common Core standards for at least another two years.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is asking the state Board of Regents and the state Education Department to slow down their rapid adoption of the Common Core standards. Currently, the results of student scores on the new high stakes testing will be used to evaluate teachers this year, but Silver says that should be delayed for another two years.

Read more

7:29am

Tue February 4, 2014
Politics and Government

Few details forthcoming on fracking health review

Anti-fracking protesters from Frack Action attend the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee's budget hearing on Monday, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah answered questions.
Matt Ryan NY Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner was questioned by lawmakers at a recent budget hearing about his ongoing review of health effects related to hydrofracking, but Dr. Nirav Shah provided few details.

State lawmakers peppered Shah with questions about the ongoing health review on hydrofracking, which critics say has proceeded in near secrecy.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, asked Shah what he’s been doing since the review was announced a year and a half ago.

Read more

7:17am

Mon February 3, 2014
Politics and Government

Fracking likely to be a topic at budget hearing

Anti-fracking protesters attend an environmental budget hearing in late January.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

The state’s health commissioner is scheduled to testify before the legislative fiscal committees Monday morning, and he’s sure to be asked about a long delayed health study on hydrofracking.

Dr. Nirav Shah, who was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the state’s health commissioner, is expected to be asked by state lawmakers about a study he’s conducting on the potential health effects of natural gas drilling. The review has been going on for a year and a half now, and until it’s completed, hydrofracking is on hold in New York.

Read more

7:11am

Mon February 3, 2014
Politics and Government

Is Cuomo's budget surplus for real?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been taking credit for a $2 billion budget surplus in his new spending plan. But critics say that claim is not entirely accurate because the windfall does not actually materialize for another two years, and only if certain conditions are met.

Cuomo is fond of comparing the differences in the state’s finances since taking office three years ago.

Read more

7:20am

Thu January 30, 2014
Environment

Cuomo's environmental commissioner says fracking delay will continue

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens testifies at a legislative budget hearing.
Karen Dewitt WXXI

One day after President Barack Obama touted hydrofracking of natural gas as a bridge fuel, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s environmental commissioner says it’s extremely unlikely that permits for drilling wells will be issued in the next year.

Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens testified at a legislative budget hearing. The state has had a de facto moratorium on hydrofracking for nearly six years.

Read more

7:06am

Wed January 29, 2014
Education

Education hearing turns into Common Core complaint session

Education Commissioner John King testifies to a state Senate committee during an October meeting in Syracuse. (file photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO/file photo

The state’s education commissioner testified at a legislative budget hearing, where he once again heard complaints from concerned lawmakers regarding the fast track adoption of the new national Common Core standards.

Lawmakers, calling the roll out of Common Core a nightmare and a mistake, grilled state Education Commissioner John King and asked for more time to adopt the new federal standards.

Read more

11:25pm

Tue January 28, 2014
Regional Coverage

Comptroller reports state spent record amount on overtime

Ryan Delaney WRVO

New York's state comptroller says the Cuomo administration racked up a record $611 million in overtime payments over the past year.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the 16 percent increase in overtime payments between 2012 and 2013 comes mostly from employees in institutional settings, like prisons and psychiatric centers. The state police also paid troopers $35 million in overtime payments, at an average of over $74 an hour.  

DiNapoli says the uptick comes at a time when state government has been downsizing employees.

Read more

11:01pm

Tue January 28, 2014
Regional Coverage

Ethics panel rejects donor privacy requests from abortion groups

A state ethics board has denied applications from groups on both sides of the abortion debate a request to keep private their donor lists.

The groups, including the pro-choice Family Planning Advocates, and the Christian conservative New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, had argued that making their donor lists public could pose a danger to their contributors because they lobby on controversial issues.  The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, rejected the request from both groups, along with the request by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Women’s Equality Coalition.

Read more

7:10am

Tue January 28, 2014
Politics and Government

Mayors testify at annual Tin Cup Day in Albany

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio talk during a panel discussion.
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo Flickr

Mayors from around the state -- including Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner -- testified before the state legislative fiscal committees. In what’s traditionally known as Tin Cup Day, many asked for more money, while others asked for authorization to collect more money from their citizens.

First up was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who came armed with a new report that he says shows how he could enact universal access to pre-kindergarten at a “rapid pace,” in an expansion that he calls one of the largest in the nation’s history.

Read more

7:51am

Mon January 27, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo's budget reads like reelection agenda

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces the voters in November, and his budget plan, with many of the major initiatives phased in over the next few years, can be viewed as a blueprint for the governor’s reelection.

Many of the major components in Cuomo’s budget -- including universal pre-kindergarten and business tax cuts -- take three to four years to be fully phased in. Even the property tax freeze is a multi-year proposal.

Implicit in the plan’s success is that Cuomo remains governor for the next few years to carry out all of the proposals.

Read more

8:11am

Thu January 23, 2014
Politics and Government

State groups respond to Cuomo's budget plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his annual budget address Tuesday. (File photo)
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Reactions are pouring in after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his 2014 budget plan, ranging from praise to criticism.

Business groups are among the happiest so far with the governor's budget. The Business Council of New York swtate, reacting to Cuomo’s calls for a corporate tax cut, a faster phase out of an energy tax and a reduction in the estate tax and property taxes, say they applaud the governor’s continued commitment to improve the state’s business climate.

Read more

9:13pm

Tue January 21, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo's budget phases in pre-K, tax cuts

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his budget speech Tuesday.
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his state budget Tuesday. The $137.2 billion dollar spending plan includes more money for schools, including a phase in of funding for universal pre-kindergarten programs. It would also freeze property taxes for two years -- if local governments cooperate.

The governor’s budget, which includes a 3.1 percent increase in school aid, a two-year property tax freeze and phased-in business tax cuts, offers something for everyone in a year where Cuomo and all 213 members of the legislature are up for reelection.

Read more

8:32am

Tue January 21, 2014
Politics and Government

Siena poll shows Cuomo gaining popularity

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is beginning 2014 with high numbers, according to a recently released Siena College poll.

The governor has regained some lost ground, and now is viewed favorably by 66 percent of New Yorkers. Cuomo would also beat potential GOP opponents, Donald Trump and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, by almost 50 points, says Siena’s Steve Greenberg.

“He’s governor is sitting pretty,” said Greenberg. “His numbers, favorability, job performance, reelect, are the best they’ve been in about a year.”

Read more

8:07am

Tue January 21, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo expected to cover education, tax cuts and campaign finance reform in state budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the State of the State address on Jan. 8.
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo releases his state budget proposal Tuesday afternoon, and many will be watching to see what it contains and how the numbers will work.

Read more

2:43pm

Fri January 17, 2014
Politics and Government

Assembly leader now calling for special elections to fill vacancies

Wallyg Flickr

Some top state lawmakers seem to be changing their minds over whether to call special elections for a growing number of vacancies in the legislature.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver now says he wants voters to pick new legislators to fill 11 vacancies. And Gov. Cuomo now says he is looking at the issue.

Silver had said special elections to fill the nine vacancies in the Assembly and two in the Senate might be pointless, since new members could not be seated before the budget is done, and that he did not expect the legislature to do much work after late March.

Read more

7:17am

Fri January 17, 2014
Politics and Government

State lawmakers differ over Common Core fix

New York State Education Commissioner John King testifies to a state Senate committee during an early October meeting in Syracuse. (File photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO/file photo

There’s continued dissatisfaction over the state’s implementation of the new Common Core standards, which parents, students and teachers have complained has led to too much testing. But there’s disagreement in the state legislature over how to fix it.

Read more

7:00am

Fri January 17, 2014
Politics and Government

Reform groups urge Cuomo to include public campaign funding in budget

Thirty reform groups have written to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, asking that his new state budget plan include funds for campaign finance reform.

The groups are asking the governor to essentially put his money where his mouth is when it comes to campaign donation reform ideas like public financing and a new agency to police violations.

Read more

7:56am

Thu January 16, 2014
Politics and Government

Growing number of vacancies in legislature likely to remain until 2015

A view of the New York state Assembly chambers.
-JvL- Flickr

The New York state legislature now has 11 unfilled seats, after one Assemblyman resigned over a sexual harassment scandal and another was expelled after being convicted of a felony. But it could be another year before those seats are filled.

In recent days, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of the Bronx was automatically ousted from the Assembly when he was convicted on felony bribery charges. Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, of Cheektowaga, resigned under pressure after seven women accused him of sexual harassment.

Read more

7:48am

Wed January 15, 2014
Politics and Government

Pro-school funding rally draws hundreds to state Capitol

knittymarie/flickr

Hundreds of school children, parents and union members held a rally and sit-in at the state Capitol to build momentum for more spending on schools in the state budget.

Read more

7:59am

Tue January 14, 2014
Politics and Government

Assemblyman convicted on bribery charges

An Assemblyman from the Bronx has been convicted of corruption charges, meanwhile an Assemblyman from the Buffalo area resigned over accusations of sexual harassment.

On the first formal day of the legislative session, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was convicted of bribery by a federal jury after he took $20,000 from adult day care developers in exchange for promising favorable legislation. Under state law, Stevenson is automatically removed from office.

Read more

7:45am

Tue January 14, 2014
Politics and Government

Patients urge New York to pass bill allowing better access to medical marijuana

Kate Hinz with her daughter, Morgan, and Wanda Hernandez, a patient advocate who has HIV, are urging the state to pass a bill allowing better access to medical marijuana in New York.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Patients with serious health conditions, including children with a severe seizure disorder, came to the state Capitol to urge passage of a bill to better allow access to medical marijuana in New York.

Kate Hinz is one of dozens of people who came to the Capitol on the first formal day of session to lobby for the bill to allow medical marijuana in New York as a treatment for a variety of medical conditions. Her daughter Morgan has Dravet’s syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that is incurable and very difficult to treat with conventional drugs.

Read more

Pages