Governor Rod Blagojevich proposed no direct property-tax relief during his annual budget address at the Statehouse last week, but afterwards he told me in an interview that he would back the idea if a crucial Senate Democrat demanded it.

It's not often that someone who worked on a state legislative staff actually wins a campaign for himself, but it happened last week in Chicago.

Former House Democratic staffer Brendan Reilly won his aldermanic race against longtime Chicago Alderman Burton Natarus last week by about nine points, stunning the Chicago political world, which didn't think that Natarus - who joined the city council in 1972 - could be defeated. Reilly silenced the critics by bringing a new level of sophistication to the Chicago political game.

Two articles in recent days have shed a little bit more light on the as-yet-unconfirmed plan by Governor Rod Blagojevich to propose a gross-receipts tax on Illinois businesses. The tax would be levied on all corporate revenues, regardless of profitability or existing tax exemptions and loopholes.

Apparently, Governor Rod Blagojevich, Senate President Emil Jones, and House Speaker Michael Madigan can't get along enough yet to help Illinois' favorite son win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Governor Rod Blagojevich has said he wants billions more a year for a universal-health-care plan. Last week, a coalition of business and labor groups called on the state to put $5 billion a year into transportation for five years. The Regional Transportation Authority estimates it needs $57 billion over 30 years to maintain, enhance, and expand transit services.

For months, most Statehouse observers have predicted a battle royale between the state's three top Democrats: Governor Rod Blagojevich, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, and Senate President Emil Jones.

The three men haven't been getting along, and the relationships between Madigan and Blagojevich, and between Madigan and Jones, are particularly strained. So far, Jones and Blagojevich are doing okay together, but that could change in a heartbeat if Blagojevich and Jones tangle over school funding. Jones wants a lot of money for schools, but Blagojevich refuses to raise taxes.

Senate President Emil Jones talked for several minutes during a media availability the other day about his war theories.

Among other things, Jones recalled how Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev pounded his desk during the United Nations debate over whether to allow China into the organization. Khrushchev failed to persuade the international body to admit his fellow Communist nation, but, as Jones said, not long afterwards China detonated a nuclear bomb in the atmosphere and the UN quickly relented, bringing China in and forcing Taiwan out.

My grandmother tells the story of when she met John F. Kennedy.

It was back in 1959, as Kennedy was still gearing up for his presidential run. Grandma and my grandfather, an active Teamsters Union member and a Democratic precinct committeeman in Kankakee, traveled to Chicago for a labor event featuring JFK.

Kennedy, the story goes, was working the room, and when he made it over to my grandparents he put his arm around my grandmother, kissed her on the cheek, and told my grandfather that he had a "beautiful wife."

Grandma swooned, of course, and decades later when I asked her how she reacted, she joked that she didn't wash that kissed spot on her face for two weeks. To this day, you can't say a bad word about JFK in front of Grandma for fear of risking the evil eye.

You'd think that Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who is forever being touted as one of the smartest politicians in Illinois history, would have realized long ago that Barack Obama was immensely popular and needed to be treated differently than others. Yet it wasn't until last week that Madigan finally offered a public bow to the man widely considered to be a top-tier candidate for the U.S. presidency in 2008 and who has a rock star's ability to turn grown men and women into giddy teenagers.

The Better Government Association (BGA) filed a lawsuit last week that could create lots of fireworks. The BGA wants to force Governor Rod Blagojevich to release federal grand- jury subpoenas his administration has been served between January and July of last year.

The BGA initially filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year to pry loose the subpoenas. The Blagojevich administration had made it a standard practice to disclose subpoenas until the feds started nosing around the governor's office itself about a year ago, then all cooperation stopped.

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