Sen. Peter Courtney (D-Salem) today announced an elegant solution to a vexing challenge: whom to crown co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

By dint of the fact that it writes the state's budget, the Joint Ways and Means Committee is the most powerful panel in the Capitol.

Courtney has decided to split the job between two of the many senators who wanted the job: Sens. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Portland).

Sen. Betsy Johnson
Sen. Betsy Johnson

"Senator Johnson and Senator Steiner Hayward are two of the most experienced budgeteers in the Legislature. They have 25 years of Ways and Means experience between them," Courtney said in a statement. "They are accomplished individuals. One is a doctor [Steiner Hayward]. The other is pilot with a law degree [Johnson]. They know and respect each other. One is private sector. The other is public sector. They have worked well together in the past. I know they will make a formidable team."

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward
Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward

Most years, the Joint Ways and Means Committee is run by a budget expert from each chamber, although in 2011-2012, when the House was split 30-30 between Republicans and Democrats, State Reps Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) and Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) shared responsibility for the House. (In 1995, two House Republicans, state Reps. Denny Jones (R-Ontario) and Bob Repine (R-Grants Pass) shared the House's spot.)

Johnson has served on the full Ways and Means Committee since winning election to the House in 2000. Steiner Hayward has send on the committee since her appointment to the Senate in 2012.