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

Governor Cuomo has released a bill to amend the state’s constitution to legalize casino gambling in New York.

Marie Cusick/WMHT

 

Governor Cuomo released a state budget plan that closes a $2 billion dollar gap, recommends a phased in state takeover of county health care costs, and offers an ultimatum to schools to accept a teacher evaluation program or lose increased school funding.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is set to release his state  budget plan on Tuesday, as New York faces a $2 billion dollar budget gap.  

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver offered his support to lobbyists for more school aid funding, and offered a subtle criticism to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The New York State legislature, on its first official day of business, acted in a show of bi- partisanship, to divest the state of investments in Iran, but Democrats and Republicans in the Senate continue to argue over redistricting. 

Governor Cuomo, in his state of the state message, called for public financing of campaigns, based on a model currently in use in New York City. Proponents, including those who have studied the model as well as public finance systems in other states, believe it can work.

Governor Cuomo, by all accounts, had a successful first year in office accomplishing many of his top goals laid out last January. He implemented his fiscally conservative agenda, including closing a gaping $10 billion dollar budget deficit without imposing any new taxes at the time, and getting the spending plan done on time, a rarity in Albany. Cuomo also convinced skeptical lawmakers to agree to a 2% property tax cap.

One of the biggest and most controversial issues facing New York in the New Year is hydrofracking.  Governor Andrew Cuomo’s environmental department is conducting a review process and is likely to begin issuing permits sometime in 2012.

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announced their appointments to the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE early last week. It was the last possible day before the commission was, under law, required to begin its work.

The first meeting was held late Thursday. It was a private teleconference, and no public notice was given.  The Associated Press first reported the existence of the meeting.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has introduced legislation that would require coaches at high schools and universities to report suspected incidents of child sexual abuse. The governor says the bill is in response to the alleged sex abuse charges against Syracuse University basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine.

Governor Cuomo named Janet DiFiore, the District Attorney of Westchester County, to chair the commission. He also appointed Seymour Knox the IV, who is VP of Corporate Relations for the Buffalo Sabres, as well as the chair of a private equity firm, and Mitra Hormozi, who worked for Cuomo when he was Attorney General.   

Senate Leader Dean Skelos picks include former Western New York State Senator Mary Lou Rath. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver chose former state budget director Patrick Bulgaro.

Governor Cuomo, in his first day on the job back on January 1st of this year, laid out his position on raising taxes pretty clearly.

“I say no new taxes, period,” Cuomo said on January 1.

 

The governor was answering a question from reporters, in his first media availability as governor, on whether he would support continuing the current surcharge on New Yorkers making $200,000 and up, which includes millionaires and multi-millionaires, when it expires December 31st.  Cuomo expanded on his view point during that session on January 1st.

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders have announced a deal to raise taxes on the rich, and slightly lower taxes for the middle class.

Talks are taking place behind the scenes on changes to New York’s tax code that could result in the wealthy paying higher taxes.  Governor Cuomo, who is asking for the changes, is also proposing a gambling expansion and  other initiatives which he is asking the state legislature to consider later this week.

The gaps in the New York State budget, for the current year and the new fiscal year, are widening.  Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers are considering a number of options, including a special session, and revamping of the state’s tax code a means of generating more money for state coffers.

A report by a policy think tank finds that 500,000 job opportunities were lost in New York in the three year long economic slump, representing a total income loss of $31 billion dollars a year. 

Governor Cuomo’s budget office is released some bad news Monday. The state’s budget gap is even bigger than expected, with a $350 million dollar shortfall for the current year and a $3.5 billion dollar gap next year.

The governor says he’s waiting for some uncertainties in the world markets to stabilize before updating the state’s financial picture, and has delayed releasing the state’s mid year budget report, which was due in late October.

Cuomo budget officials have said they are also waiting to count some tax collections delayed by the hurricanes. They’ve also post poned some scheduled budget hearings that have been part of an effort in recent years to jump start the budget process.

Governor Cuomo’s budget office has delayed releasing its mid-year budget report and future financial forecast, citing uncertainties over the European debt crisis and delays in collection of some business taxes, due to two hurricanes that hit the state in late summer.

State worker union members have ratified a contract that will prevent nearly 3500 lay offs , though members make several concessions, including a three year pay freeze. Cuomo says he’s “very happy”, and has rescinded the lay off notices that were to go out Friday.

The votes will be counted for the second time this fall on a contract offer between the state worker union, the Public Employees Federation, and Governor Andrew Cuomo after the first offer was rejected. This time, if the contract is rejected, the governor has vowed to follow through with 3500 lay offs.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a supporter of extending the tax on millionaires, says he believes his side can “ultimately” prevail.

The state’s Environmental Commissioner said last week that the process to permit hydrofracking on some private lands in New York State may take longer than expected, and DEC Commissioner Joe Martens even cast doubt on  whether permits would be issued in 2012 at all. Governor Cuomo says he’s willing to wait, if it leads to a rational decision making process on what’s become a highly emotional issue.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is stating in no uncertain terms that he intends to veto the redistricting lines now being devised by a joint legislative commission, because they are not independent and non partisan.

The state’s environmental agency says  a key advisory panel will not be issuing a report on the impacts of hydrofracking by a November 1 deadline, delaying part of the process of allowing the natural gas drilling on some private lands in New York until early next year.

The State’s Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens, says the report from the advisory committee, will be not be issued next month as originally planned, partly  because data on costs of fracking  to other state agencies, including  the departments of health and transportation, aren’t ready yet.

Carl McCall, the newly appointed Chair of the State University of New York Board of Trustees, is no stranger to New York politics and policy making. He sat down Monday to talk about his goals for SUNY and what he discerns in the Occupy Wall Street and now Occupy Albany movement.

Occupy Albany protesters camped out across the street from the State Capitol for the fourth day say they have no intention of leaving anytime soon.

Leaders of the state worker union, the Public Employees Federation, are waging a campaign style effort to try to convince members to vote yes this time on a new contract. Governor Cuomo says he will not give the union a third chance, and will issue lay offs in less than two weeks if the second contract is rejected.

Members of the state worker union the Public Employees Federation will be voting on a new contract proposal, now that the union’s executive board has signed off on a rejiggered proposal agreed to with Governor Cuomo to avoid 3500 lay offs. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state worker union, the Public Employees Federation, are going down to the wire over a deal to forge a new contract agreement  or face 3500 lay offs. 

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