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.

New York state lawmakers were finishing up the state budget Thursday, two days after the deadline. One area of contention was making changes to the state’s bail reform laws.

In the end, they compromised.

On Jan. 1, New York eliminated most forms of cash bail for nonviolent crimes. There was a backlash as prosecutors and police said too many repeat offenders were being let back out onto the streets, and crime was on the rise as a result.

State lawmakers hoped to finish the budget overnight, one day after the deadline, after  an agreement reached with Governor Andrew Cuomo will give the governor broad new powers to add or subtract   spending throughout the year , as the state continues to cope out with the fall out from the corona virus.

Cuomo says it’s a “remarkable” achievement that the budget was agreed to at all, when he and state lawmakers are under such  stress dealing with the steeply rising cases of COVID 19 in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said legalizing recreational marijuana is not going to be part of the state budget this year.

Cuomo made his comments as the budget deadline approached with no agreement on how to close a $15 billion budget gap, caused by the fallout from the coronavirus.

He was asked about the fate of the legal cannabis proposal during his daily briefing on the coronavirus. 

"It's not likely," he said. "Too much, too little time." 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he knows many New Yorkers are trying to get through to the state’s website and phone lines to apply for unemployment, and are facing long waits and crashing systems.

He says the Labor Department normally gets 50,000 calls regarding unemployment a week, now it is getting over 1 million calls a day -- 1.2 million on Monday and 7.8 million over the past week.

“It’s not working as smoothly as I would like to see it,” said Cuomo, who added the state is working with “literally hundreds” of tech experts to try to fix it. “It’s compounding people’s stress.

The deadline for the state budget is midnight March 31, and lawmakers, facing a massive deficit, are meeting at the State Capitol, which is off-limits to the public.

Meanwhile, yet another legislator has tested positive for the coronavirus. 

A new poll by Siena College shows a big change of fortune for Governor Andrew Cuomo, with 87% approving of his handling of the coronavirus.

In addition to high ratings on how Cuomo’s dealing with deadly virus, Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg says the Governor’s favorable rating, which for years has hovered in the mid 40% to around 50%, (in February of 2020 his approval rating was just 44%), is now much higher.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has extended the mandatory closure of all non-essential businesses and ban on gatherings in New York for another two weeks, through April 15. That time period includes the Passover and Easter holidays.

Cuomo says he knows it will be difficult, but as the rate of the virus in New York continues to climb, it seems necessary to extend the ban through the spring holidays.

“It’s hard,” Cuomo said.

But he says in the City of New Rochelle, New York’s first coronavirus hotspot, people attending religious services helped spread the virus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing a state budget deadline in less than a week, is out with a new proposal to try to cope as the state faces a multibillion-dollar budget gap and much uncertainty, with the economy shut down due to coronavirus.

State lawmakers have just one week until the state budget is due, and despite the coronavirus outbreak, they say they intend to meet the deadline and will use precautions to avoid meeting in large groups.

They face a daunting task of putting together a spending plan while a multibillion-dollar deficit grows each day. 

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said on March 17 that the state’s $6 billion deficit could grow by $4 billion to $7 billion. Now, even those numbers appear outdated.

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault, has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to a story first published in the Niagara Gazette. Weinstein is in the Wende Correctional Facility in western New York.

The news comes as advocates for prisoner rights are asking the state for a plan to protect inmates from getting the virus.