DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13: Rep. Julie McCluskie, right, with her fellow representatives on the floor of the House during the first legislative day of the 73rd General Assembly at the Colorado State Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo By Kathryn Scott)

The Joint Budget Committee began its first look at the 2022-23 budget with an overview of the budgeting process and operating rules.

But the first order of business was the annual handing over of the gavel from the chair to the vice-chair, an action that puts Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, in charge of the powerful budget writing panel.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, was the JBC chair for the 2021 budget cycle. Rules require the chair's position to switch between chambers each year. 

The committee has six members. The majority party in each chamber is allowed two members each and the minority party gets one member each. 

The majority party in that succeeding chamber then determines who the next chair will be. Since it's Democrats in both chambers, it was a simple matter to hand over the gavel to the committee's vice-chair.

This is McCluskie's second year on the JBC after she was first appointed to the committee for the 2020 session. That was the session in which the JBC had to cut $3.4 billion out of the 2020-21 budget, a process that left both JBC staff and lawmakers distraught at times.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" quipped McCluskie as she took the gavel.

She thanked Moreno for his "exceptional leadership through two of probably the most difficult years the JBC has ever faced," both as vice chair and chair. "You were not only the calm before the storm, you were the calm through the storm."

She also thanked Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, her Western Slope colleague, though fumbling a bit in how to describe him, first as senior, then elder, then "vintage statesman" on the committee. Rankin could be heard laughing in the background.

Rankin, currently the committee's longest-serving member, has been on JBC since 2015. 

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