Capitol Bureau

Capitol Bureau correspondent Karen DeWitt reports on what is happening in Albany, and how the decisions made by lawmakers affect you. Karen reports for WXXI and 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 New York Now, the statewide public television program about New York State government seen on WXXI-TV Sundays at 6:30 p.m.  

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.

Governor Cuomo gave up some items in the newly announced state budget deal, but so did the legislature.

The budget that will be adopted by the legislature is largely unchanged from what the governor initially proposed. That’s partly because some of the more controversial budget items, like pension reform, were settled separately earlier in the month.  

Governor Cuomo, in a briefing to cabinet members, said “I think this is smart, intelligent document”.

“And probably one of the best budgets that’s been done in a long time,” Cuomo added.

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.

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 was near, some conference sub 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 .

State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos says he expects the state budget to be passed on time and in day light. The deadline for the spending plan is now only one week away

Senator Skelos says talks are on track to reach an agreement on a state spending plan in time to avert another all night session, as occurred earlier this month. 

“I believe it will be on time,” Skelos said. “It will be in daylight.”

Senator Skelos say remaining issues to be decided include school aid distribution.   

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is casting doubt on whether the state budget will include a health exchange required under the federal health care act, saying there is too much uncertainty to create it now.


As part of the federal health care act backed by President Obama and approved by Congress, states are required to set up health exchanges so that the uninsured can buy the health care plans that they will be required to purchase when the act is fully implemented.


State lawmakers have abandoned the idea of completing a state budget one week ahead of schedule, legislators were due home in their districts late Thursday without agreement on a new spending plan.


Senate Republicans are claiming victory in a too close to call special election in Brooklyn. A win by the GOP candidate could spell another blow to minority party Democrats in the Senate. The beleaguered minority party are now charging that the Senate GOP has been using house rules to further stifle them.


Governor Cuomo and lawmakers are deliberating behind the scenes on their remaining disagreements over the state budget,  as unions and others expressed doubts  about a recently approved pension reform plan.


Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders have relatively few remaining differences in this year’s budget, though ironing out all of the details will likely now prevent passage of the spending plan until later next week.



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”.