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Johnson, Steiner Hayward to chair budget committee

Observers see an opportunity to bridge the urban-rural divide in th appointment of the co-chairs.

Sen. Betsy JohnsonOregon Senate President Peter Courtney has taken the unusual step of appointing both Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scapposse, and Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, as the Senate's co-chairs to the committee. The House chair is Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis.

The Ways and Means Committee develops a state budget every two years and considers policies that entail spending state money.

"I'm thinking of it is an opportunity … for a more balanced approach between urban and rural Oregon, and I can't think of better persons to work their way through the difficult issues facing us in the upcoming session," said Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario.

OREGON CAPITAL INSIDER - Sen. Elizabeth Steiner HaywardThe pair plans to hold joint office hours to meet with state officials, advocates and other making budget requests. The joint meetings will allow the co-chairs to hear the same information at the same time, "feed off each other's questions and get

the most robust understanding of serious budget requests," Steiner Hayward said.

The Senate president's decision to jointly appoint the women as chairs was ingenious, she said.

"I see this as an opportunity to try to decrease the rural-urban divide when it comes to budgeting issues," Steiner Hayward said.

"I do my absolute damnest to represent Senate District 16, and I am honored that the people have confidence in me to manage the state budget on their behalf," Johnson said.