WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Karen DeWitt

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.

A poll on New Yorkers' attitudes on racism and sexual harassment show that many believe society has a way to go to improve things.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his first public comments since a key Senate leader was accused of sexual harassment, said he wants investigations to play out before he makes any judgments.

Senate Independent Democratic Leader Jeff Klein, a Cuomo ally, has been accused of forcibly kissing a former staffer, a charge Klein adamantly denies.

The senator has asked the state’s ethics commission to investigate, saying he’s willing to cooperate. Cuomo, speaking on Long Island, said he’s also waiting for the results of that inquiry.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his budget Tuesday, and the news is not expected to be good.

The state faces an over $4.4 billion budget gap, as well as funding cuts and policy changes from Washington that could cost New York and some of its taxpayers billions of dollars.

The governor set the tone in his State of the State speech earlier this month, saying, “2018 may be the toughest year New York has faced in modern history.”

“We have unprecedented challenges ahead on every level,” Cuomo said. 

Shortly after sexual harassment allegations against Senate Independent Democratic Leader Jeff Klein emerged, numerous people started calling for an independent investigation. But under current law, there are few avenues available for launching a probe.

The leader of the Independent Democrats in the Senate denies that he forcibly kissed a former staffer, and says he intends to remain as leader of the break away Democratic faction.

Klein and his colleague, Senator Diane Savino,  issued a pre emptive strike against an article in the Huffington Post, where the former female staffer says Klein forcibly kissed her on the sidewalk outside  an Albany bar on March 31, 2015, the night the state budget was approved.

The 2018 election season is beginning, but state Republicans are still trying to settle on a strong candidate to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said he wants to seek a third term. 

Republican State Party Chair Ed Cox said the GOP will have a “good,” qualified and viable candidate.

Republicans in the State Senate say that, despite the over

$4 billion dollar structural deficit, taxes need to be cut further and a property tax cap must be made permanent.

Senate GOP Majority Leader John Flanagan says the state needs to cut income taxes, property taxes and energy taxes, in the midst of a brutally cold winter. And he says some tax cuts for middle class New Yorkers that begin to take effect this year need to be speeded up.

“We actually want to accelerate the tax cuts,” Flanagan said.

The state’s Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, warns of a “problematic” budget season, as the state faces a structural deficit, changes to the federal tax code, and uncertainty over continued funding from Washington.

DiNapoli, speaking at a forum sponsored by the Albany Times Union, says this year’s $4.4 billion dollar budget gap is on top of expected cuts from President Trump and the Republican led Congress.  

“On health care alone, we still stand to lose billions of dollars,” DiNapoli. “We really could be behind the eight ball.”

Monday was the first full day of session in the New York State legislature, and lawmakers have a lot to contend with, including a multi billion dollar budget deficit, as well as the beginning of an election year.

The state Assembly went first, with remarks by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. The speaker, a Star Trek fan, used one of his favorite quotes from the series as he offered a critique of what he calls “radical policies” by President Trump and the Republican Congress in Washington.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State speech this week, floated the idea of converting the state income tax to a payroll tax to help reverse the new federal law that limits deductibility for state and local taxes. Many support the concept, but businesses say it’s not so easy to make the change – and it could bring unforeseen complications. 

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