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.

2018 will be a year of criminal trials for former associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as former leaders of the Legislature. Reform groups say they hope the lengthy court proceedings will spur lawmakers to enact some ethics reforms.

Six continuous months of corruption trials kick off on Jan. 22, when Cuomo’s former top aide Joe Percoco faces bribery charges for allegedly soliciting more than $300,000 from companies doing business with the state.

Blair Horner with the New York Public Interest Research Group said it will be a year unlike any other.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his eighth State of the State speech, told lawmakers that 2018 will be the “most challenging” year, and he said they will have to fight against what he said are “threats” from the federal government. He also announced steps to combat sexual harassment and reform the state’s criminal justice system.

Cuomo told lawmakers, the state’s top judges and hundreds of others assembled inside the state convention center that 2017 “was a tough year by any measure.”

But he said “2018 may be the hardest year in modern political history.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address on Wednesday, kicking off a challenging year of budget deficits and re-election races.

Cuomo begins his eighth year in office facing the largest budget deficit since 2011. New York is short $4.4 billion, and there’s uncertainty over federal policies, including the overhaul of the tax code, that could leave the state with even a bigger budget hole in the future.

2018 might finally be the year that Democrats regain control of the state Senate. But they face a number of obstacles, and Republicans aren’t ready to give up any time soon.

Two feuding factions of Democrats in the Senate have agreed to reunite later next year and perhaps rule the chamber, but it can happen only if a number of events occur first.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, under pressure from left-leaning Democrats to be a peace broker, last month called on the eight breakaway members of the Independent Democratic Conference to rejoin with the rest of the Democrats.

Governor Cuomo, responding to the end to state and local tax deductions in the federal tax law, has issued an emergency order to allow New Yorkers who owe more than $10,000 in property taxes each year to pay them early to get around the new law.   

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing early voting in New York as part of his State of the State message, due out Jan. 3. But a top aide to the governor said it might be awhile before the proposals could become law and take effect.

The proposal would require each county to set up at least one early voting poll site during the 12 days leading up to Election Day. The sites would be open for five hours a day on the two weekends leading up to elections, as well as eight hours a day on weekdays.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s vowed to lead a campaign against the state’s Republican Congressional representatives in the 2018 elections, has spent the final weeks of 2017 feuding with them over their votes on the federal tax overhaul bill.

Cuomo has been saying for weeks that the overhaul would be “devastating” to New York’s finances and to many of its taxpayers, and he’s called Republican House members who support the plan “traitors” and “Benedict Arnolds.” 

The tax overhaul plan passed Tuesday in the House of Representatives is drawing a mostly negative reaction from the state’s union and business leaders.  

The president of the state’s AFL-CIO, Mario Cilento, says the measure is a gift to the wealthy and corporations, and while some union members in New York may see a temporary increase in their paychecks, it will not equal the amount that they’ll lose when they can no longer deduct their state and local taxes from their federal tax payments.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has instituted a minimum wage increase for most workers in the state, now wants to extend that rate to tipped workers, including wait staff and car washers. That news is causing a backlash from restaurant owners and small business groups.

The current state minimum wage for tipped workers is $7.50 an hour. That’s lower than the minimum wage for non-tipped workers, which ranges from $9.70 an hour upstate in some industries to $12 an hour for fast-food workers in New York City.

With a projected multibillion-dollar deficit and looming federal changes that could cost the state billions more, the biggest obstacle in the upcoming 2018 legislative session will be balancing the state budget.

The second-highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, John DeFrancisco, said the budget will be “horrible” and the worst in at least seven years.

“I think it’s going to be very, very difficult,” DeFrancisco said. “Probably the most difficult budget year the governor has had since he’s been governor.” 

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