While some state agencies are raising red flags about losing key services during this lingering budget mess, one office says good planning will mean no hiccups when it comes to doing its main job.

The Illinois comptroller's duties include writing checks to vendors, employees and others who provide services to the state.

I asked last week when the office is projected to run out of the checks it needs to process all the payments.

The answer: We're good.

Rich Carter, a spokesman for Comptroller Leslie Munger, said the office ordered enough checks in advance to make sure the state gets through the fiscal year that runs through June 30.

In all, the office writes about 67,000 checks per week, which equates to about 3.4 million checks per year.

While that's a lot of paper, most of the state's money actually is paid out through direct deposit.

More than 97 percent of state workers, for example, receive their checks electronically. More than 90 percent of retirees receive their pension checks in a paperless fashion.

Of course, rather than worrying about the state running out of checks, we should be concerned about the state running out of money to back up those checks.

But that's another story.

Quiet time 

There were no signs last week of movement toward resolving the budget impasse that has left state government in a relative state of paralysis.

Gov. Bruce Rauner spent the week traversing the state on other business, including stops in Mattoon and Effingham. The Legislature wasn't in session and won't be back in town for a few weeks.

The slow but steady drip, drip, drip of problems related to the stalemate continued.

Rauner closed the state museum, but is keeping union employees at the facility in place. The governor's office admitted last week they don't know exactly how some of the workers will spend their time in the empty building.

University presidents penned a letter urging the governor and lawmakers to get moving on solving the budget crisis.

Water was shut off at a state transportation office because the state hadn't paid its water bill.

An agency spokesman didn't directly answer my question about the lack of working bathrooms at a job site, but he did send me this statement.

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"IDOT pro-actively took steps to make sure the employees have everything they need to continue doing their jobs in a healthy and safe environment. The public will not notice any impact to services," Guy Tridgell said.

And, Treasurer Mike Frerichs warned that the gridlock could negatively affect state investments.

The quiet time gave lawmakers a chance to do some other things.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, offered a free paper shredding event on the north side of his hometown.

In southern Illinois, state Rep. Brandon Phelps partnered with tourism officials and the Department of Natural Resources to promote "staycations."

And, state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, told me she was out walking precincts during the break. We talked while she was knocking on doors in Edinburg.

Chosen candidate

Retiring state Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, is making no secret of whom he is supporting to replace him in his Quad Cities district.

He wants his nephew, attorney and accountant Jeff Jacobs, to take over when he steps down in January 2017.

And, Verschoore put his money where his mouth is last week when he transferred $53,900 of his own campaign money into Jacobs' account.

There's plenty more where that came from. Campaign finance reports show Verschoore is still raising money to add to the more than $200,000 in his campaign bank account.

A personal note

After two decades of covering Illinois government and politics, I am taking my pen and notebook to Missouri in a few months.

I've truly enjoyed my time here in the Capitol, watching an amazing assortment of characters rise and fall, and trying to keep taxpayers informed of how their money is being spent.

I'll be doing much the same thing in Jefferson City as a member of a team reporting on Missouri state government for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It's been a great run for me here, with much of the credit going to an excellent and caring group of editors at all of my papers.

But you're not done with me yet. I've still got two months to keep an eye on Illinois and the epic standoff underway between Rauner and the Democrats.

Follow Kurt Erickson on Twitter @Illinois_Stage


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