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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Gambling casino companies are pressing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature to allow them to open gaming centers in New York City as part of the new state budget. There are a number of obstacles to overcome, but the proposal may seem tempting to lawmakers, who are strapped for cash this year.

Brett Levin / Flickr

The chance to include the legalization of adult recreational marijuana in the state budget is fading, now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo seems to be backing away from the proposal.

Legislative leaders have already said it might be better to create a plan for adult use of recreational cannabis outside of the time pressures of the state budget, which is due at the end of the month. There are still many unanswered questions about who would be permitted to grow marijuana, distribute it and sell it.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

A push to enact a statewide system of public campaign finance for political races appears to be floundering in New York. But advocates have not given up on a proposal that they say would change the culture of a state Capitol where many lawmakers have grown dependent on donations from special interest groups.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

With just a little over two weeks to go before the state budget is due, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top budget officials say they have to revise their spending proposal, now that President Donald Trump has released a budget plan that they say could devastate New York’s health care system.

They’re pressuring the Legislature to rein in their spending proposals as well.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Budget talks are intensifying in Albany as the deadline nears, and they are revealing tensions and divides between Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the all-Democratic State Legislature.

Cuomo began the week with a list of items that he said he needs in the state budget in order for him to agree to it.

They include a property tax cap, criminal justice reforms and a congestion pricing plan for parts of Manhattan to help pay for fixing public transit.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr (File Photo)

New York Attorney General Tish James said she’s reached an agreement with the state legislature to amend the state’s double jeopardy laws to make it easier to go after people accused of crimes in New York, even if a president pardons them.

The measure is aimed at holding associates of President Donald Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, accountable for crimes they may have committed within New York’s boundaries, even if the president pardons them of federal crimes that they have been convicted of.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

 

With three weeks to go until the April 1 budget deadline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is drawing some lines in the sand on items that he said must be in the spending plan, like a permanent property tax cap.

But Cuomo said a proposal to legalize the adult use of marijuana likely will not be finished in time.

Jim Bowen / Flickr

The state Senate and Assembly are due to release their own versions of the state budget this week. They come as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is demanding that a number of unrelated provisions be included in the spending plan. Without them, he threatens, the budget could be late.

The governor’s budget director, Robert Mujica, listed in a statement the items that he said must be in the budget in order for Cuomo to agree to it. They include a congestion pricing plan in Manhattan to help pay to fix the subway system, and making the temporary property tax cap permanent.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Students in the public university systems rallied this week at the State Capitol to end what they say is a built-in flaw in the state’s student aid policies.

They say it’s costing the State and City University systems nearly $150 million a year. But their requests for more money come at a time when the state’s finances are tightening. 

Matt Ryan / New York Now (file photo)

The state comptroller has come out with revenue projections that will limit the ability to spend more money in the state budget. Under law, the governor and Legislature have to abide by those numbers — but that hasn’t stopped interest groups and some lawmakers from saying that they will increase spending.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

There were some emotional moments Tuesday as lawmakers and supporters of a school funding measure rallied at the state Capitol in Albany to advocate for $4 billion they say has long been owed to them under an order by the state’s highest court.

Miriam Aristy-Farer began helping hold fundraisers for the elementary school in her Washington Heights neighborhood when her son was small, and she saw that the district lacked art and music teachers, and special assistance for children with autism.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News (file photo)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Democratic colleagues in the legislature are at odds over agreement on the amount of revenues New York has to spend on health care, education, and other items in the state budget, which is due in less than a month. The State Comptroller may have to step in and decide if there’s no agreement by the end of the day Tuesday.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Economists and financial forecasters, speaking at the state Capitol Thursday as part of an annual consensus forecast meeting on the state budget, are warning of an impending recession in New York and the nation. The state is already experiencing some warning signs, with the governor’s budget office predicting a $2.6 billion deficit.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

It’s a busy time at the state Capitol, with just over one month to go until the state budget is due. Groups are bringing advocates by the hundreds to try to get their favored items placed into the spending plan. Meanwhile, there are lingering recriminations over the failed Amazon deal.   

Among the groups vying for attention at a crowded state Capitol, are advocates for public campaign financing.

governorandrewcuomo / flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new anti-gun violence measure into law Monday, at a ceremony attended by survivors of gun violence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The measure, approved by the Democratic-led Senate and Assembly earlier this month, creates what’s known as an "extreme risk" protection order. It permits law enforcement, family members and school officials to go to court to seek the confiscation of the guns in the home of an individual that is determined to be a potential risk to themselves or to others.

Matt Ryan / New York Now (file photo)

A recent legislative hearing on sexual harassment in state government focused in part on the role of the state’s ethics commission in investigating charges of alleged abuse.

And according to those who testified, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, was insensitive, secretive and not sufficiently independent from politics.

New York State Senate

A week after the Amazon deal in Queens died, New York lawmakers want states to agree to stop using taxpayer money to lure big businesses.

The legislators are proposing a measure that would form an interstate compact to end what they call excessive “corporate welfare” for large companies.

Among the sponsors is Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris, a leading opponent of the Amazon deal. It would have located part of a second headquarters for the giant online retailer in his district, in exchange for $3 billion in government subsidies.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News (file photo)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says changes to the federal tax code led to a growing state deficit and is causing some high-income earners to leave the state. But progressive groups, some Democratic state legislators and even some millionaires are pushing back against that assertion, saying there’s no hard evidence that any wealthy New Yorkers are leaving.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Amazon announced Thursday it is pulling its plan to build a second headquarters in New York City, citing opposition by some state and local politicians.

The company, in a statement, said “after much thought and deliberation,” it has decided not to move forward with plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens.

The statement pointed out that a recent poll showed 70 percent of New Yorkers wanted the project, but Amazon said “a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us.”

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

During the first hearing on sexual harassment in New York’s government in 27 years, state lawmakers closely scrutinized Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s policies on the issue, as victims told harrowing stories about their experiences.

Matt Ryan / New York Now (file photo)

The New York State Senate began a series of hearings on climate change Tuesday. Democrats who lead the chamber back a measure to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions in New York by 2050, but that may come into conflict with a program being pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Matt Ryan / New York Now

Sponsors of a bill to create a single payer health care system in New York offered a revised bill, but its future is uncertain. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state might not be able to afford it.

Assembly sponsor Richard Gottfried, who has championed the issue of single payer for several years, said the bill, known as the New York Health Act, has now been amended to include coverage for long term health care, including home health aides and nursing homes.

He said the addition, among other things, will benefit women, who lose income under the present system.

New York State Senate

The New York State Senate will be holding hearings Wednesday on ways to fix the state’s anti-sexual harassment laws.

One of the first things Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins did when she took over the chamber in January was to announce hearings on the state’s anti-sexual harassment policies.

“We need to deal with the scourge of sexual harassment in the workplace,” Stewart-Cousins said in a speech in the Senate on Jan. 9.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

It seems inevitable that New York state will legalize recreational marijuana sometime this year, now that the governor and leaders of the Legislature all agree that it should happen.

WRVO News File Photo

State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia said she’s not pleased with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to spend just half of the amount of new money on public schools that education experts in New York recommend. She spoke Wednesday at a joint legislative budget hearing at the state Capitol.

Jim Bowen / Flickr

New York lawmakers say it’s likely they will vote soon to end cash bail and make other changes to help defendants who they say are unfairly treated in in the state’s criminal justice system.

The Senate sponsor of a measure to end cash bail, Sen. Mike Gianaris, spoke at a rally of criminal justice reform advocates.

Gianaris, who is deputy majority leader of the Senate, said the state’s bail system disproportionately affects the poor, and is racially biased. He cites the case of former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of multiple cases of sexual assault.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli delivered some bad news Monday — the state has a $2.3 billion budget deficit.

Cuomo blamed the decline on federal tax changes that he said penalizes blue states, but there are other factors at play, too.

Cuomo said they are sounding the alarm after reviewing the results of the January quarterly estimated tax payments. Cuomo said the collections are even “worse than anticipated” and “as serious as a heart attack.” 

DiNapoli said it’s the biggest hit to the state’s finances in some time.

Matt Ryan / New York Now (file photo)

More than 200 groups are pushing for New York state to enact a public campaign finance system for statewide candidates. And they say they’ve never been closer to achieving their goal.

The coalition, known as Fair Elections for New York, includes dozens of unions, the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the Sierra Club.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

A feud has been growing between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the Catholic Church over an abortion rights bill the governor signed last week. The governor has been fueling the flames of the disagreement.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

 

The New York State Legislature built on the state’s 2013 gun control laws Tuesday, passing measures to extend the waiting period for background checks for some purchasers and to forbid teachers from bringing guns to school.

At a news conference before the measures were voted on, Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said there have been 27 mass shootings in the U.S. already in 2019.

“Every day, it seems, we wake up to the headlines of another mass shooting, another horrific gun crime,” Stewart-Cousins said.

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