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.

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Karen DeWitt

Several proposals in Washington, including the changes to the Affordable Health Care Act, could mean multi-billion-dollar budget gaps for New York state. With the budget due in one week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders think that at the very least, they may have to come back later in the year to revise the spending plan.

With just over a week to go before the budget deadline, Cuomo for the first time hinted that the spending plan might not be completed on time because of the uncertainty about future federal funding.

Matt Ryan New York Now

Another sitting state legislator, Sen. Rob Ortt, has been indicted on corruption charges, along with George Maziarz, who held the western New York Senate seat before him. The indictments come as ethics reform proposals in the state budget are faltering.

Ortt is accused of creating a no-show job for his wife to pad his own salary while he was mayor of North Tonawanda in Niagara County.

Matt Ryan New York Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s considering suing the federal government over an amendment to the health care act proposed by two New York congressmen, saying it may violate state sovereignty.

Congressmen Chris Collins and John Faso support a plan that would require New York state to take over the counties’ share of Medicaid costs, outside of New York City, worth about $2.3 billion. The plan does not offer funds to pay for the shift, and Cuomo, in a third day of attacks against the plan, said anyone who believes it’s a savings for taxpayers “is being taken for a ride.”

The leader of the state Senate said an indicted Republican senator is staying on for now to help work on the upcoming state budget vote and other issues. 

Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan said he’s sticking by Rob Ortt, a senator from western New York, for now, saying he can’t speculate on charges that Ortt, while mayor of North Tonawanda, arranged for a no-show job for his wife in order to pad his own salary.

“I believe in our system of jurisprudence, and I have great faith in Rob Ortt,” Flanagan said. “He’s a good friend and a good colleague.”

Karen DeWitt

Proponents of raising taxes on New York’s wealthiest say they have a new impetus to increase the state’s revenue — the continued bad news from Washington about deep federal cuts to health care and other areas.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has called an amendment to the federal repeal of the Affordable Care Act that would force the state to pick up county Medicaid costs “unconscionable.”

A provision to shift Medicaid health care costs in New York from counties to the state as part of the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act by Congress is meeting with a cool reception from state leaders.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls it a “targeted war on New York,” while the leader of the Republicans in the Legislature is voicing skepticism. 

The next two weeks at the state Capitol are going to be very busy as lawmakers face the deadline for a new budget. Several issues remain unresolved.

Religious leaders lobbied for inclusion of the millionaire’s tax in the state budget. Governor Cuomo has asked for an extension of a temporary income tax surcharge on New Yorkers making more than a million dollars. Republicans, who lead the Senate with the help of some breakaway Democrats, want to end the tax. Democrats who control the Assembly want to add even more, higher tax brackets for the state’s top income earners.

Matt Ryan New York Now

Now that Preet Bharara is no longer the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York, some in Albany wonder who will investigate potential corruption now. 

Bharara’s office engineered the successful prosecutions of both major party legislative leaders. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos face long prison sentences for corruption. 

Bharara, fired by President Donald Trump’s Justice Department, also has brought cases against nine former associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including the governor’s former top aide.

Tensions between opposing groups of Democrats in the Senate reached a flash point this week over whose faction would be allowed to present their budget priorities for a floor debate in an exchange that included some racially charged name-calling.

A growing group of eight breakaway Democrats, who rule the Senate in an informal coalition with 31 Republicans, have left regular Democrats smarting for some time now.

Matt Ryan New York Now

The state Legislature’s one-house budgets make some changes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $163 million proposal to offer free tuition at public colleges in New York to some middle-class students.

Cuomo’s plan would have the state pay the tuition at public colleges and universities for students who have a combined family income of up to $125,000 a year when the plan is fully phased in in two years.