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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.

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Governor Cuomo will deliver his second State of the State message Wednesday. The governor faces continued budget deficits, and a soft economy as well as a looming redistricting deadline.

 Cuomo is expected to follow up on priorities he began during his very busy first year in office. He will likely try to close a remaining $2 billion dollar budget gap without raising any new taxes. In December, the governor agreed to increase taxes on New Yorkers making over $2 million dollars a year to gain needed revenue, and at the time said he did not endorse any further new taxes in 2012.

State lawmakers have still not made public their new proposed maps for redrawn legislative districts, but the Senate Majority Leader says it’s likely a new 63rd district will be created.

The number of Senators has been at an even 62 for the past decade,  which helped lead to the 2009 coup attempt and month long stalemate, when Senators evenly divided between two opposing factions. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos says the additional district is likely to be included in new legislative district maps that he says will be released within the next few weeks.

The head of a major state worker union is warning Governor Cuomo not to ask state workers for more givebacks in the new state budget.

The President of the Public Employees Federation, Ken Brynien, says he’s drawing a line in the sand with Governor Cuomo, and has asked the governor not to expect more givebacks from state worker unions.

“I told him you can’t come back to us for anything else,” said Brynien.  “You’ve got as much as you are going to get, you’ve got to look elsewhere.”

Governor Cuomo achieved a number of goals in his first year as governor, but Cuomo does not intend to rest easy during the upcoming  second year of his term.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has begun a count down clock to promote tax code changes approved in December that will lower taxes for the state’s middle class.

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

Earlier in the year, it seemed that the Cuomo administration was on a fast track to allow hydrofracking in New York. In June, state environmental officials proposed allowing the gas drilling process on some private lands in the state, and began a review process.

The dismantling of one of the last Occupy encampments in New York ended with pepper spray and arrests, as Albany City workers moved in and took down tents at the Occupy Albany encampment.

Occupy Albany’s camping permit expired at 7 am, by mid afternoon city workers moved in and began dismantling tents. When workers tried to take down the last tent, protesters seized it and began marching up and down the city streets in the midst of the evening rush hour. They chanted “Occupy Albany all day, all week”, and “banks got bailed out, we got sold out”.

The first public meeting of the state’s new ethics commission came on the day that another State Senator pleaded guilty to felony corruption charges. Questions were raised about the closed door portion of the commission’s meeting.

Shortly after noon, The Chair of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Janet DiFiore, called the meeting to order.

“We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us,” DiFiore told the assembled commissioners.

State Comptroller  Tom DiNapoli’s office is helping municipalities comply with the complexities of the new property tax cap, but he says it’s too early to tell yet what the out come of the new law will be.

DiNapoli says so far, around one fifth of counties have taken preliminary steps to override the cap, as they are permitted to do under the law as long as they can muster a 60% majority vote from their county legislature or board of supervisors.

State lawmakers have not yet released their proposed  maps for new district lines. A government reform group has tried to fill the void by releasing its own set of maps that it says are a model for non partisan districts.   

Sue Lerner, with Common Cause, says her group has released proposed maps of legislative districts that it says are non partisan, and are based on grouping regions and neighborhoods with similar characteristics together.

“They’re built on factors that are important to people, not politicians,” said Lerner.

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