Karen DeWitt

Albany Reporter

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.

DeWitt 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 by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

DeWitt has served as a panelist for numerous political debates, including the 2014 gubernatorial debate sponsored by WNED|WBFO

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The State Assembly has introduced a bill to permit for the first time in New York voluntary public financing of some election campaigns. 

The Assembly bill would offer an optional public financing system for campaigns for state legislative and statewide offices, giving candidates six dollars for every one dollar in contributions. It would be financed, in part, through a $5 check off option on state income taxes.  

Bill Mahoney, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says it’s a “good first step”.

New York’s Presidential primary is today, but the initial excitement over the vote vanished when Rick Santorum dropped out earlier this month.

State GOP leaders say they are looking ahead to the general election instead.

Earlier this year, it seemed that New York, which has a relatively late primary, might actually be a contested state, as first Newt Gingrich, then Rick Santorum appeared to present a serious challenge to GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney.

An historic preservation group is weighing in on hydrofracking for the first tim, and they don't like what they say they’ve been learning about the gas drilling process.

They say it would change the nature of the landscape from rural to industrial and would detract from heritage tourism in the Marcellus shale region.

Every year, the state’s leading historic preservation group, the Preservation League, lists historic sites that they believe are endangered, known as New York’s Seven To Save.

Governor Cuomo has issued an executive order to create a state health care exchange, required by the federal health care reform law, after the legislature failed to act.

Cuomo had sought to create the exchanges, required under the federal health care law, as part of the budget, but some Senate Republicans refused, saying they did not want to codify what opponents call Obamacare.

In the end the governor agreed to drop the health exchanges from the budget, and issue an executive order  to create the exchanges instead.

Governor Cuomo’s administration is conducting the largest ever on line and in person auction of over 450 used cars and trucks as part of what they call a fleet reduction- to try to save money and cut down on government excess.

There are rows and rows of Crown Victorias, Ford Expeditions and even several Priuses on a large lot on the state office campus just outside the City of Albany, 461 in all.

And they are being offered to the highest bidder on E-Bay, and in person.  

WBFO News file photo

Governor Cuomo has vetoed over half a million dollars of legislative member items, saying he’s following through on a promise to ban the funds, which have been used in the past to finance lawmakers’ pet projects.

The Governor’s $640 million in line item vetoes for member items does not include any new money from this year’s budget.

Rather, they are what’s known as re-appropriations for member items that were approved in earlier budgets from two years ago, before Cuomo was in power.

Photo provided by Karen DeWitt

Governor Andrew Cuomo gathered with leaders of the legislature Friday to celebrate an on-time budget for the second year in a row.

Cuomo and majority party legislative leaders praised each other for their efforts in achieving two on time budgets in a row, which they say is considered a feat after decades of late budgets.  Then, they took turns posing for pictures as the governor signed the first of several budget bills.  

Cuomo said government is once again functioning, and it’s a “very proud day for the entire state”.

State lawmakers were headed for an on time state budget for the second year in a row that keeps spending relatively flat.

State legislators and Governor Cuomo have been touting the on time budget for the second year in a row that also, for the second time, reigns in spending.

Cuomo admits that most people would view that as lawmakers simply doing their job.

But he says in a state that has almost never met the budget deadline for over two decades, it’s a “big deal”.

Reaction to the newly agreed upon state budget continued to pour in at the State Capitol, as lawmakers began passing the first of a series of budget bills, in the hope of finishing the spending plan by the end of the week.

Senate Leader Dean Skelos praised lawmakers and Governor Cuomo, for their work on a budget plan that’s likely to be in place by the deadline.

“This is a budget that we all can be proud of,” Skelos said.

The seemingly recession-proof business of lobbying grew once again in New York last year.

The state’s ethics panel finds a total of $220 million was spent to influence the governor and members of the legislature.

The newly formed state ethics commission, championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, found that a lobbying group closely associated with the Governor’s policies,  The Committee to Save New York was the biggest spender in 2011.

The group, made up of business interests,  financed  nearly $12 million worth of lobbying and advertising  campaigns. 

Lawmakers agree on $132.6 billion state budget

Mar 27, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly today announced an agreement on a $132.6 billion state budget for the fiscal year that starts Sunday.

The budget would increase spending by two percent while expanding economic development and jobs programs and providing some protections for the poorest New Yorkers and immigrants.  The agreements include a 10 percent increase in the welfare grant in June. Cuomo wanted to delay half of the increase because of the state's slow economic recovery.

New York lawmakers are very optimistic about getting a budget done on time again this year.

They say 99% of the state’s spending plan has been closed down, and they will pass bills before the end of the week.

In a sign that the end of the budget process is near, some conference committees began wrapping up their work and closing down.

The criminal justice and mental hygiene budget conference committees were among those that gaveled out mid-day Monday.

The state legislature, meeting for the first time since deals were struck on pension reform and new district lines, tried to focus on their new task, agreeing on a budget.

But they found that the old issues continue to have repercussions, as a major union suspended all endorsements and contributions over the pension vote.

The week began with Governor Andrew Cuomo signing into law a bill to expand the state’s DNA data base.

Cuomo says the law will make the state “safer”.

The DNA bill was passed in all night session that ended last Thursday morning.

Photo by Karen Dewitt

Three candidates will be on the ballot in the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Kirsten Gillibrand.  New York City attorney Wendy Long received the most votes in Friday's convention in Rochester with around 47%, followed by Congressman Bob Turner and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, who both received just over the 25% required to avoid seeking petitions.  Long, a New York City attorney who is originally from New Hampshire, says she has many similarities with Gillibrand.

The New York Senate and Assembly were poised to vote on new district lines, as Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announced agreement on a number of other unrelated issues, including expansion of the state’s DNA data base, pension reform, and an amendment to allow more gambling in New York.

After months of hearings, debate, and closely guarded private negotiations, the state Senate and Assembly task force on restricting, known as LATFOR, finally moved to adopt new district lines and send them to floor for a vote.