Forget about the budget, forget about Governor Bruce Rauner's "Turnaround Agenda," forget about the almost unprecedented animosity during the spring legislative session between Democrats and Republicans.

The most talked-about issue under the Illinois Statehouse dome last week was a directive from one of the governor's top staffers to all state-agency directors.

The agency directors received an order from the Rauner administration Wednesday demanding that they and their staffs not meet or talk with any lobbyists unless the governor's Policy Office had first okayed the communications. The directors were also told to inform agency "stakeholders" that they didn't really need to hire lobbyists anyway.

Governor Bruce Rauner devised a new way to reward his friends and punish his enemies on April 16 when he created a campaign committee called Illinois Turnaround.

Illinois Turnaround is an independent-expenditure committee, meaning contributions to it and by it are not capped by law. The committee's officially stated purpose is to "support state legislative candidates who support Governor Rauner's bold and needed reforms, and to oppose those who stand in the way."

According to Rauner insiders, the new committee will be given $4 million to $5 million within days of its founding. That's in addition to the $20 million the governor has in his own personal campaign account, which won't be touched for this particular effort.

Spending on advertising is expected to begin soon after the money comes in.

The governor's campaign also released a polling memo that purports to show that the public backs his agenda. While his job-approval rating is just 38 percent, his disapproval rating is five points below that (33 percent). The percentage of respondents who view him favorably was 42 percent compared to 34 percent who viewed him unfavorably.

Buried deep within Governor Bruce Rauner's proposed budget plan for next fiscal year is yet another claimed "savings" that might not actually save any money, and could easily wind up costing the state more.

The governor proposes to save $108 million by discontinuing child-care services provided by relatives in the child's or relative's home.

At first glance, that cut might look prudent. Why should the state pay grandma to babysit her own grandkid? Is that some sort of scam? Go to any right-wing blog, and you'll occasionally see stories bashing this whole idea.

But those payments are designed to help low-income parents go to school and work their way out of poverty. So by pulling those payments, "grandma" could lose her income and may very well have to find a different part-time job, meaning the parent then has to search for another provider and the state saves no money.

Governor Bruce Rauner has met with dozens of state legislators both individually and in small groups since his election. By all accounts, every meeting has been cordial, and he has scored lots of points with legislators who aren't accustomed to this sort of gubernatorial attention.

Then he had the Senate Black Caucus over to the governor's mansion for breakfast.

It started out well enough, but things turned south in a hurry when Rauner said he couldn't accept the Senate Democratic majority's stand-alone proposal to patch about $600 million of the current fiscal year's $1.6-billion budget deficit with transfers from special state funds. He wanted, he said, an "all or nothing" solution.

More than a few Statehouse types have been wondering aloud for weeks what Governor Bruce Rauner is up to with his almost daily attacks on organized labor.

His people say that the governor feels "liberated" since the election to speak his mind about a topic that stirs great personal passion in him. He played up the issue during the Republican primary, then all but ran away from it in the general-election campaign, including just a few weeks before Election Day when he flatly denied that "right to work" or anything like that would be among his top priorities.

Yet there he is day after day, pounding away at unions, demanding right-to-work laws, vilifying public-employee unions as corrupt to the point of issuing an executive order barring the distribution of state-deducted employee "fair share" dues to public-worker unions such as AFSCME. The dues are paid by people who don't want to pay full union dues.

There's little doubt that the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka would've continued her straight-talking ways during the administration of Governor-elect Bruce Rauner.

Topinka was good copy for reporters. When she criticized a budget or a fiscal position, we listened.

Other Statehouse denizens respected her fiscal smarts as well. If she attacked a proposal, legislators and everyone else under the dome took note.

Rauner showed great deference to Topinka after the election, officing in her Statehouse suite and giving her chief of staff the authority to hire most of his new employees. I don't think there's any question that he grew to truly admire the quirky redhead.

Bruce Rauner out-performed fellow Republican Bill Brady's 2010 gubernatorial-election performance in every region of the state last week. As I write this, with less than half a percent of the vote yet to be counted, Rauner has a 5-point margin over Governor Pat Quinn and appears to have won a majority vote in a three-way election.

The national headwinds against the Democratic Party surely played a role in the Quinn loss. But Rauner did better than other Republicans on the ticket. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is widely considered one of the most popular Republicans in Illinois, and yet she under-performed Rauner. At this writing, GOP state Representative Tom Cross and Democratic state Senator Michael Frerichs are just about tied in the treasurer's race. And Republican Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier appears to have narrowly survived an attempt to oust him.

Rauner scored just above the magic 20-percent number in Chicago, a point at which - with a significant advantage in the rest of the state - a Republican can win a statewide election.

But he didn't really need it. He out-performed Brady's 2010 campaign in suburban Cook County by 6 points, outdid the Downstater in his own region by a point, and dwarfed Brady's 2010 numbers throughout the collar counties.

Bruce Rauner reportedly had one of those bugs that were going around last week.

Rauner didn't take any time off, and it showed. For the first time at his press conferences, he read his statements right off the page, painfully stumbling over his words.

He and his campaign also seemed grumpier last week. "Pat Quinn is not the folksy, bumbling fool he'd like us to think he is," Rauner growled on Monday. On Tuesday, Rauner's campaign barred some college journalism students from his press conference, and Rauner refused to even have a word with them afterward. On Wednesday, he turned his head and pointedly ignored a follow-up question from a Chicago TV reporter about the NFL scandals. More on that in a moment.

Maybe the recent Chicago Tribune poll that showed him trailing Governor Pat Quinn by 11 added to his physical misery. But it was Rauner's personal decision to not flood the airwaves with TV ads during the spring and summer, when Quinn didn't have the money to adequately respond. Rauner cheaped out, and now it's gonna cost him a lot more money to win this thing. So he has nobody to blame but himself.

The Illinois Education Association (IEA) has always leaned more Republican than its Illinois Federation of Teachers counterpart, but the IEA's endorsement of one GOP candidate raised a few eyebrows this year.

Conservative state Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) was endorsed by the IEA last month. The Illinois AFL-CIO assigns the Metro East legislator a rating of 36 percent so far this session. The Illinois Federation of Teachers, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, endorsed Kay's Democratic opponent, Cullen L. Cullen. The IEA is not an AFL-CIO union.

The Kay endorsement is not what you'd call an everyday occurrence. Yes, the IEA endorses a fair number of Republicans, but it's well-documented that Kay was on friendly terms with the Tea Party when he was first elected in 2010, and the IEA is not enamored with that bunch.

Bruce Rauner changed my mind on term limits. Probably not in the way he intended, but given my longstanding dislike of them, it's still quite an accomplishment.

The Republican nominee for Illinois governor has a television ad promoting term limits in which he pings his November opponent, Governor Pat Quinn. "A half-million people signed petitions to put term limits on the [November 2014] ballot," Rauner says. "Illinois voters overwhelmingly support term limits: Democrats, Republicans, and independents. But Pat Quinn, Mike Madigan, and the Springfield crowd don't care what you think. They'll say or do anything to keep power. They let term limits get kicked off the ballot, but come November, it's our turn to kick them out of office."

It's a smart play to emphasize support for an ever-popular reform - and also disingenuous beyond the vague claim of "let[ting] term limits get kicked off the ballot." Quinn has been a proponent of term limits for decades. And the June court ruling - which higher courts have let stand - removing the referendum from the ballot cited an Illinois Supreme Court decision from 1994, which dealt with a similar term-limit initiative by ... Pat Quinn.

But it was the Madigan reference in Rauner's ad that got me thinking - and got me re-thinking term limits.

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