A review of travel records from the governor's office appears to show no one among the governor's top staff has hit the road since July 1.

Take Gov. Bruce Rauner's chief communication staffer, Mike Schrimpf.

Between January and June, Schrimpf received reimbursements averaging about $580 per month for his travel between Chicago and Springfield, according to documents filed with the Illinois comptroller.

Or take First Lady Diana Rauner's chief of staff, Sara Jimenez.

Between January and June, my former office mate — she used to be a Springfield television reporter — received an average of $392 in travel reimbursements each month as she shuttled between the capital city and Chicago.

But, like others in the office, there were no more reports about travel reimbursements after June 30.

It raised a question: Did everyone in the governor's office suddenly stop traveling once the new fiscal year began?

Not really, said Rauner spokesman Lance Trover.

In a statement, Trover said the governor's office "remains diligent in controlling travel spending."

Once the ongoing budget mess began to unfold on May 31, the office instituted further travel restrictions, not allowing mileage or daily meal money to be claimed for any member of the governor's staff when traveling for session-related business.

"Members of the governor's team who are required to travel often carpool as well," Trover said in a statement.

Although that's all fine and well, there's actually a technical reason for the absence of any travel documents being submitted to the comptroller's office for payment after July 1.

With no budget, there is no money to pay for travel.

At the Illinois State Board of Elections, for example, Executive Director Steve Sandvoss said travel by his staffers hasn't stopped. Rather, getting reimbursed for travel has stopped.

The lack of a state budget means workers are paying for their meals, hotels and mileage out of their own pockets in hopes of getting repaid when the politicians finally figure a way out of this quagmire.

"We have a stack of travel vouchers ready to go out," Sandvoss told me. "For the time being, this is all out-of-pocket by the employee."

The same can be said of most vendors providing services or products to the state.

Although not paying state workers for their travel expenses might not generate blockbuster headlines, it could have an effect on how state services are being delivered.

The state election office, for example, provides pre-election training in counties throughout the state. That training could be postponed or cancelled in the lead up to an important election year in 2016, leaving Illinois less-prepared to deal with a potentially tight presidential election.

The situation also begs the question: When is a budget going to be approved?

All signs point to a lengthy wait. In fact, the governor acknowledged that much during recent comments he made during a stop in Effingham. Reports indicate that behind-the-scenes negotiations by a bipartisan group of lawmakers stalled last week.

The folks on the Democratic side of the aisle aren't predicting anything soon either.

And, the war of words between Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan continues. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said Rauner acted like a "second-grader" after he left a speech without talking with reporters.

Working together

Although the governor and the Democrats aren't getting along, Republicans and Democrats proved last week that they can find common ground on some things.

On Tuesday, the bipartisan Legislative Audit Commission voted 11-1 to endorse state Rep. Frank Mautino to become the next Illinois auditor general.

The lone holdout was state Sen. Jim Oberweis, a Sugar Grove Republican who said Mautino's ascension to the $154,000 post was rigged from the beginning when House Speaker Michael Madigan said he was backing the Spring Valley Democrat.

Also in the running were Marion attorney Larry Sanders, state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, and Mary Modelski, a county-level auditor in California.

Oberweis had wanted Modelski to be in the mix because she had impeccable credentials as an experienced auditor.

A day after the vote, a resolution was introduced in the House calling for members to vote on Mautino's appointment. That vote could come on Oct. 20 when the House and Senate are back in session for the first time in nearly a month. He'll need support from three-fifths of the members to get the 10-year appointment.

In an interview, Mautino said he will model his tenure after retiring Auditor General William Holland, who worked fiercely to protect his team from political influence.

Follow Kurt Erickson on Twitter @Illinois_Stage


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