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.

I never really wanted an intern. I'm sort of a lone wolf who prefers to work alone. But a longtime friend of mine, Jim Nowlan, pretty much demanded that I take on one of his prized students, Paul Richardson, as an intern this legislative session. I resisted at first, but eventually met with Paul and was impressed.

For several weeks now, the Illinois General Assembly's spring session has been a slow-motion train wreck. Those of us who work at the Statehouse are moving around in real time watching it happen all around us, saying to ourselves, "Oh, this is gonna hurt."

Federal prosecutors have recently been handed a couple of big setbacks in their ceaseless pursuit of government corruption. But you would hardly know it considering the lack of press coverage the cases have received here.

It may be no surprise to some, but new polling shows Barack Obama is doing better with hardcore Illinois primary voters than Hillary Clinton is doing with voters in her own home state of New York. Also, voters are split over whether Obama should be more critical of Chicago corruption, and the Republican presidential primary appears wide-open here.

The real electoral surprise last week was not in Chicago, where five tired, old incumbent hack aldermen went down to defeat. The big shocker was the Carbondale mayor's race, in which Sheila Simon - the daughter of the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon - was trounced by Republican incumbent Brad Cole.

I was probably more surprised than anyone when I was invited to tag along on Governor Rod Blagojevich's road trip last week. The governor toured the state to push his universal-health-insurance plan and his gross-receipts tax on business. I was on the bus with him for three days, and we talked for hours.

Governor Rod Blagojevich insists that his proposed gross-receipts tax on business doesn't break his campaign promise last year not to raise income or sales taxes, but a recent poll finds voters think otherwise.

The very last question of the 45-question poll, in which voters were told both positive and negative aspects of the proposal, asks this: "Now, during the campaign, Governor Blagojevich promised not to raise income or sales taxes. By increasing business taxes, do you think he is keeping his promise or not?"

There are two major tax-increase proposals competing for support in the Illinois General Assembly. You've probably read about both, but you may not know the whole story.

The governor has a huge tax-hike proposal on the agenda. It's called a "gross receipts" tax, and it basically means that every dollar a business brings in the door is subject to taxation without regard for whether the business is actually profitable. (See cover story in this issue.)

Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie usually hangs back and lets others make news. Since getting the number-two job in the House Democratic caucus in 1997, she hasn't been known for being way out front on major issues. And as far as I can remember, she's never once publicly criticized Governor Rod Blagojevich.

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