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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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.

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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.

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7:28am

Mon January 13, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo trying again for anti-corruption reform

Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his 2014 State of the State address in Albany.
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

In his State of the State speech, Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again called for a reform package to address corruption in the legislature. Last year, bills to crack down on bribery and enact public campaign financing were never passed.  

The legislature failed in 2013 to act on any of the governor’s reform proposals, despite several arrests, indictments and imprisonment of lawmakers.

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7:35am

Fri January 10, 2014
Politics and Government

Speaker Silver says latest assemblyman accused of sexual harassment should leave

The legislative session begins with the New York State Assembly still plagued by sexual harassment scandals.  Seven women have now accused a Buffalo-area assemblyman of sexual harassment.

Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak , of Cheektowaga, has now been accused of sexual harassment  by a seventh woman. Another assemblyman, Micah Kellner, of Manhattan , has been censured by the Assembly Ethics Committee for alleged sexual harassment.

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5:50pm

Wed January 8, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo's fourth State of the State focuses on taxes, economics

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State address in Albany Wednesday
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered something for everyone in his fourth State of the State message, as he faces a re-election year. He outlined programs ranging from property tax cuts to an education bond act, to allowing medical marijuana.

Cuomo began his speech focusing on tax cuts and job creation. He highlighted a plan announced earlier in the week to cut the corporate tax rate, and property taxes , in a scheme that would hinge on local governments freezing spending, and consolidating.

“The highest property tax in the country is in Westchester County,” said Cuomo.

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6:47am

Wed January 8, 2014
Politics and Government

Taxes, marijuana and infrastructure to be discussed in State of the State address

Ryan Delaney WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives his annual State of the State speech Wednesday. Cuomo has already introduced some of his key agenda items, but there are still some surprises left.    

Cuomo has already released a plan to cut business taxes, the estate tax, and a multi-step process to freeze property taxes.

He also invited Vice President Joe Biden to the Capitol to help lay out his plans for better handling future weather disasters.

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2:41am

Wed January 8, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo, Biden meet on infrastructure rebuilding plans

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted Vice President Joe Biden to talk about new ways of rebuilding infrastructure after damaging storms. The two are potential presidential contenders in 2016, if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run. But they had nothing but praise for one another.  

New York state received $6 billion in federal aid after Superstorm Sandy, and Cuomo Biden to the State Capitol, to show him how he’s spending the money.

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8:06am

Tue January 7, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo tax cut plan reduces business and property taxes

Ryan Delaney WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a key portion of his State of the State address early. He unveiled a plan to cut business taxes, and potentially freeze local property taxes for two years.

Surrounded by business leaders, Cuomo outlined a plan Monday that would cut business taxes, and result in property tax reductions for businesses and homeowners, if local governments and schools comply with a set of requirements in the next three years.   

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7:56am

Tue January 7, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo wary of wider marijuana legalization

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who plans to introduce a limited program for medical marijuana in his State of the State speech Wednesday, says he does not see it leading to the legalization of the drug at this time. But some in the legislature disagree.

Cuomo is using his authority through the New York State Health Department to allow up to 20 hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana to some patients. Cuomo says he favors a limited experiment for now to work out any potential problems.

“If it goes bad, we can correct or improve it, all within our own control,” Cuomo said.  

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7:56am

Mon January 6, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo faces challenges from political right and left in 2014

File photo
Zack Seward WXXI

All 213 members of the state legislature are facing re-election later this year, as is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But Cuomo also has the challenge of balancing competing interests as he tries to win another term by a big margin.

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2:38pm

Fri January 3, 2014
Politics and Government

Storm moves out of New York state, but extreme cold temperatures remain

Durrie Lawrence/WRVO File Photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the worst of the winter storm is now over, but New Yorkers now face another challenge -- extreme cold.

In a conference call with reporters, Cuomo says the storm, which dropped several inches of snow, is moving east and out of New York.

“Mother nature has moved on, somewhat,” Cuomo said.

And he says all roads are now open. Cuomo defended his decision to close parts of the New York State Thruway, the Long Island Expressway, and I-84 overnight.

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6:30am

Thu January 2, 2014
Politics and Government

State Assembly Speaker wants minimum wage hike fast-tracked

The state’s minimum wage is now $8 an hour, after a new law took effect Dec. 31. It’s part of a phased-in increase that will result in a $9 an hour rate for the state’s lowest income earners by 2016. But a leading lawmaker says the hike should be phased in faster, and advocates that tip earners, like wait staff, should also be included.  

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5:34am

Tue December 31, 2013
Politics and Government

Ethics panel meets for final time in 2013

The state ethics board held its final meeting of the year, and announced no major decisions or initiatives. Critics say that’s normal for the controversial Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), and they say that’s part of the problem.

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9:06am

Mon December 30, 2013
Politics and Government

Taxes likely to top agenda for governor, state legislature

One of the top issues of the 2014 legislative session will be taxes. While Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to cut taxes, some -- including New York City Mayor elect Bill de Blasio -- want to raise them. 

In a year where Cuomo and all 213 of the state’s legislative seats are up for reelection, it’s not a big surprise that the legislative session would focus on tax cuts.

Cuomo appointed two tax commissions to study the issue, but even before they were finished, he was already signaling his intentions.

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6:51am

Mon December 23, 2013
Health

Food pantries strained by federal cuts

A basket of food representing the $36 cut a month that food stamp recipients received beginning in early November.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

With winter officially here, New York’s food pantries and soup kitchens are feeling the strain of feeding the hungry, especially after two key benefit cuts from the federal government.

The FOCUS food pantry, sponsored by six Albany area churches, is located just a block away from the state Capitol.

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2:19pm

Fri December 20, 2013
Politics and Government

Comptroller says state probably can afford tax cuts, but just barely

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says he’ll need to see more details and end of the calendar year state revenue figures before deciding whether the state can afford $2 billion in new tax cuts that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is likely to propose.

Governor Cuomo says he thinks if state spending is held to a 2 percent growth rate next year, there will be enough money in the state budget to finance $2 billion worth of property and business tax cuts.

Comptroller DiNapoli says he’s not so sure it will all add up.

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8:21am

Fri December 20, 2013
Politics and Government

State comptroller's audit finds double dipping at state agencies

N.Y. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO

A new audit by the state comptroller finds that out of a sample of state workers at New York agencies and authorities, more than one fifth were double dipping, being paid for two jobs while only doing one.

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7:55am

Thu December 19, 2013
Politics and Government

Bankrupt hydrofracking company sues Cuomo administration over delays

File photo
WBFO

A bankrupt energy company is suing the Cuomo administration over the long delayed decision on whether to allow hydrofracking in New York state. Their attorney says the action was prompted by remarks made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his health commissioner earlier this week.  

Norse Energy had once hoped to frack natural gas in New York’s Marcellus Shale. But they say as the Cuomo administration’s environmental review languished, they we're driven out of business. They say around $100 million in assets has been obliterated, along with 100 or so jobs.

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7:53am

Wed December 18, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says reform is a priority, but not the first priority

File photo
Zack Seward WXXI

The new legislative session is just a few weeks away. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’ll still make anti-corruption measures a high priority as he did in 2013, but he’ll likely deal with economic issues, like proposed tax cuts, first.  

Cuomo tried unsuccessfully to get the legislature to enact reforms to the state’s dysfunctional campaign finance system. When they adjourned for the year back in June without acting he created an anti-corruption commission, using his powers under the state’s Moreland Act, and asked them to report recommendations before the end of the year.

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7:57am

Tue December 17, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says hydrofracking decision may come after Election Day

File photo
Bosc d'Anjou Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he may not decide whether the state should go ahead with hydrofracking for natural gas until after the November 2014 election.

Cuomo, who previously said he’d decide on whether or not to okay the controversial drilling process known as fracking in New York before Election Day 2014, now says he wants to give his health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, all the time he needs to complete an ongoing health review, which began over a year ago.

“I don’t want to put any undue pressure on them that would artificially abbreviate what they’re doing,” said Cuomo.

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7:28am

Tue December 17, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says reduced spending won't be needed to enact tax cuts

File photo
Ryan Delaney WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget director outlined more details of the governor’s tax commission's proposal to cut property and business taxes in the state.

Cuomo is under pressure from Republicans to cut income taxes, and from New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to raise income taxes on the rich. But he says the state, which already has a temporary income tax surcharge on the wealthy, needs to address its highest in the nation property taxes right now instead of personal income taxes, also known as the PIT.

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7:47am

Thu December 12, 2013
Politics and Government

Factions form over Cuomo's tax commission plan

Divisions are forming in the upcoming debate over tax cuts that’s likely to dominate the new legislative session.  

Business groups are largely supportive of the findings of a tax commission appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The commission recommends cuts to the corporate tax, faster phase out of an energy tax and easing of the estate tax. They also propose a reduction in property taxes by encouraging local governments and schools to cut spending and consolidate.

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7:33am

Wed December 11, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo tax commission would cut $2 billion in property, business taxes

File photo
Ryan Delaney WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax commission is recommending a $2 billion package that includes a temporary freeze on property taxes, and a cut in corporate taxes to a 40 year low.  

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7:46am

Tue December 10, 2013
Politics and Government

Reform groups focus on state Board of Elections

Reform groups are focusing attention on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission’s recommendations to beef up the anemic state Board of Elections, but say they have not given up hope of public campaign financing for state wide races.

The reform groups say the state Board of Elections in its present form is useless and incompetent when it comes to enforcing campaign violations, and needs to be replaced.

Blair Horner is with the New York Public Interest Research Group.

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8:16am

Mon December 9, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo's tax commission report delayed

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s commission to study tax cuts has missed its December 6 deadline to report it’s findings, after facing controversy over former Gov. George Pataki’s desire to cut income taxes for all wage earners, including the wealthy.  

Although the tax commission has now bogged down over co-chairman George Pataki’s push to lower income tax rates, its original charge was to look at ways to lower New York’s highest in the nation property taxes, as well as find ways to reduce business taxes.

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8:12am

Thu December 5, 2013
Politics and Government

Future of public campaign finance uncertain

One of the most controversial recommendations in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission report released this week is to enact public financing of campaigns for statewide elections.

The majority of the 25 Moreland Act commissioners say a public campaign finance system modeled on New York City’s matching donor system is the only way to curb the undue influence of big money donors in state government.

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7:40am

Wed December 4, 2013
Politics and Government

Moreland Commission report draws reaction from both sides

Matt Wade Flickr

Advocates and lawmakers at the New York Capitol are reacting to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission report. It offers scathing criticism of what the commission says is a corrupt culture in Albany, and recommends numerous reforms.

The Moreland Act Commissioners offer withering criticism of what they say is a pervasive culture of illegal corruption and what they call legalized bribery ingrained in a campaign finance system where large donors hold sway over which legislation gets approved, and which bills are suppressed.

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8:40am

Tue December 3, 2013
Politics and Government

Moreland Commission recommends public campaign financing, other reforms

Wallyg Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission issued a scathing report Monday evening that criticizes what the commission says is Albany’s culture of corruption and recommends numerous reforms.

The Moreland Act Commissioners describe their report as a blueprint to fix what they say is the pervasive dysfunction in Albany.

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6:27am

Tue November 26, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo criticizes state lawmakers fighting subpoenas on outside income

File photo
Zack Seward WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has some harsh words for state lawmakers who are fighting his commission in court regarding subpoenas that would force legislators to reveal their outside business with private legal clients.

Cuomo says state lawmakers fighting the subpoenas are acting like they are concealing something.

“Those that have nothing to hide, disclose,” Cuomo said. “Those that don’t, have an issue.”

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8:25am

Mon November 25, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo appears to distance himself from Common Core

James F Clay Flickr

Is Gov. Andrew Cuomo backing away from his support for the new Common Core curriculum in schools? In recent days, Cuomo seems to have cooled from his initial endorsement of the rapid transition to the adoption of the national education standards.  

Everywhere Cuomo goes these days, he’s dogged by questions from reporters about what’s widely perceived as a rocky start up for New York state’s adoption of the new national Common Core standards for school children.

Cuomo was asked essentially the same question in recent days in stops from Buffalo to Lake Placid.

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