State Senate majority leader steps down, takes budget-writing job

State Sen. Kate Lieber is giving up her job as the Senate majority leader to become co-chair of the Legislature’s joint budget committee.

Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, said Monday that Lieber, D-Beaverton, will be the next Senate co-chair of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. Lieber will replace Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, D-Portland, who is exiting the high-profile post to focus on her run for state treasurer. 

The committee plays a key part in reviewing and finalizing budget proposals before they go to the full Senate and House for votes. Oregon uses a two-year budget cycle, and the Legislature will approve the next two-year budget during the long session in 2025. 

The change takes effect on July 15 for both Steiner and Lieber. Senate Democrats have not announced a timeline or scheduled a meeting yet to replace Lieber as Senate majority leader. 

“I am excited to take on this new challenge on behalf of the people of Oregon, and this was not an easy decision to make,” Lieber said in a statement. “I have big shoes to fill. Senator Steiner is an incredible leader and a highly-effective steward of Oregonians’ tax dollars. Our state is in a stronger financial position in no small part due to her tenure as co-chair of Ways and Means.”

In a statement, Wagner praised Steiner for her role as the co-chair for the past six years and said Lieber’s work in guiding behavioral health investments in the last session makes her a natural fit. 

“She is a thoughtful legislator who cares about making sure all sides and perspectives are taken into consideration before a final decision is made,” Wagner said. 

Lieber’s profile has been high since she became the Senate majority leader in November 2022. In the 2023 legislative session, she frequently spoke on behalf of Democrats during the GOP-led walkout in the Senate. She is currently the co-chair of the Joint Committee on Addiction and Community Safety Response. In that role, she helped guide the Legislature’s work on House Bill 4002, which is a response to the state’s fentanyl addiction crisis.

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Ben Botkin - Oregon Capital Chronicle

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.