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Karen DeWitt

Capitol Bureau Correspondent

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

According to published reports, some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s hiring practices are the subject of an FBI investigation.

The Albany Times Union first reported that the FBI is looking at Cuomo’s longstanding practice of hiring employees for his office but paying them through other state agencies.

Groups opposing the federal tax overhaul plan held a demonstration Friday at the State Capitol, chanting “kill the bill,” and saying the measure is bad for New York and the nation. 

Karen Scharff with Citizen Action said Congress has its priorities backward and should reject the tax overhaul bill. She said the cost of eliminating the estate tax alone is equal to the entire price of the Child Health Plus program, which provides health insurance for poor children. Congress let Child Health Plus expire in September. In New York, 130,000 children are at risk. 

County leaders across New York are the latest to complain about the tax overhaul plan now being crafted in Congress. They predict higher taxes for many New Yorkers, declining home prices and slowed economic growth.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said the federal tax bill will lead to many middle- and upper-class New Yorkers paying higher taxes because of the proposed end to state and local tax deductions. And he said the state’s over $4 billion projected deficit and potential funding cuts aren’t helping either.

“Brace yourselves,” McCoy said.

Karen DeWitt

New York faces fiscal challenges in 2018, but that has not stopped groups from asking for more money in the new state budget, including agencies that provide care to people with disabilities. 

Chanting, “Be fair to direct care,” about 200 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, along with their family members and caregivers, gathered in a reception area outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office Wednesday to ask for more help in paying the workers more money. 

One of the biggest challenges that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers will face in 2018 is balancing the state’s budget, which already has a structural deficit of more than $4 billion. On top of that, federal changes to taxes and health care could cost the state billions more in lost funding. 

State tax revenues are down, contributing to the largest structural budget gap in seven years. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli estimates the deficit to be about $4.4 billion.

The governors of New York, California and New Jersey on Monday strongly condemned the GOP tax bill now before Congress, saying it is unfair to their states and will wreak havoc on the U.S. economy.

In a conference call, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the federal tax overhaul plan that severely restricts state and local tax deductions is “political retaliation” against 12 states that are run by Democrats.

A leading Senate Democrat said if a planned unification between rival factions in the State Senate occurs, don’t expect any immediate action on key items like women’s reproductive rights, public financing of campaigns and transgender rights. 

Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who is the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, said under the current plan, the reunification would not happen until late in the legislative session, and there likely won’t be time to act on the bills. 

Senator Krueger's office

Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger spoke to WXXI’s Karen DeWitt about sexual harassment cases now rocking the country, including the case of state Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, sanctioned this week for sexual harassment.

Krueger says it’s a “wake-up call,” and she says the state Legislature would do better with an independent panel to examine allegations.

Twenty state and national groups supporting a bill that would strengthen the state’s Freedom of Information Law are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the measure into law as soon as he receives it from the state Legislature.

The bill, approved by the Senate and the Assembly in June, said if a court finds that a state agency unreasonably dragged its feet answering a Freedom of Information request, a judge could require the agency to pay the attorney’s fees for the person or group who made the FOIL request.

New York Now

A state Assemblyman has been sanctioned by the Assembly Ethics Committee for allegedly sexually harassing a staff member. Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin denies the charges and has asked for a criminal investigation of the ethics committee itself.

The complaint against McLaughlin stems from a June 2016 complaint from a female staffer, who said the Republican from Rensselaer County made lewd comments to her and asked to see nude photos of her. McLaughlin also is accused of releasing the name of the staff member, then lying about it.

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