Two months into a record-breaking overtime legislative session, the four state legislative leaders met last week to talk about the budget, but for the first time ever they made a point not to invite Governor Rod Blagojevich.

So what the heck was House Speaker Michael Madigan up to last week when he finally came out in support of an income-tax increase and urged the governor to drop his opposition to the idea?

Despite what you may have read in some newspaper editorials or Statehouse news coverage lately, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is not insane, in my opinion.

Some may disagree, but I believe that this pension "crisis" the state finds itself in right now is almost completely bogus. And since Governor Rod Blagojevich has called what looks to be a never-ending special legislative session to deal with this problem, I figured I'd weigh in.

As the state legislative overtime session drags along and Statehouse types begin half-joking about October as a possible adjournment date and pass on rumors that the governor is prepared to continue doing one-month budgets until January if necessary, it might be important to take a step back from the brink and take a look at where we are.

The war of words between state Senator Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), a fierce gun control advocate, and the Illinois State Rifle Association has apparently escalated to the point where the nutballs are coming out of the woodwork.

The Statehouse finger-pointing has escalated right on schedule.

As always with an overtime legislative session, nobody wants to take the blame for failing to reach a budget agreement during the regularly scheduled session, which ended May 31. If the government eventually shuts down because the legislative leaders and the governor can't agree on a state budget, and state workers, contractors, and public-aid recipients stop receiving their checks, the players want to make sure that someone else is fingered as the irresponsible party.

The toxic combination of an overabundance of testosterone and fragile male egos seems to be contaminating everything it touches during the Illinois General Assembly's overtime session.

Governor Rod Blagojevich made a last-minute attempt last week to at least show he was trying to get the hopelessly stalled budget negotiations back on track. Blagojevich, who has tried harder to avoid blame for the current overtime session than to actually negotiate in good faith, walked into House Speaker Michael Madigan's office unannounced last week in what was supposed to be a dramatic gesture of goodwill and harmony among Democrats.

Governor Rod Blagojevich has flatly ruled out an income- or sales-tax hike in exchange for a property-tax cut and more money for education. House Speaker Michael Madigan has said that there isn't sufficient support in his Democratic caucus to pass an income- or sales-tax hike.