Aug. 1 has come and gone, and the Earth — including that part of it called Illinois — is still rotating on its axis, though God could certainly be forgiven for smiting the occupants of a certain domed building in Springfield.

Indeed, the Legislature and the governor have less than a week to come up with a 2008 budget before the money begins to run out, in the absence of any emergency spending appropriation like the one that covered July. The governor has pushed for another temporary budget, but so far, legislative leaders are keeping their heads down and trying to work something out for the longer term.

Maybe they need a week with a gun to those heads to get a budget agreement. Anything beyond that and they may be playing Russian roulette.

Indeed, by Aug. 8 the comptroller’s office needs to begin preparing the first of two big state aid payments to school districts, amounting to $170 million. On Aug. 15, 4,900 state employees — mostly staff in constitutional offices — will stop getting paychecks. On Aug. 20 that number grows by 17,450, as employees are added from the Department of Transportation, Central Management Services, Environmental Protection Agency, Employment Security and Public Health. By Aug. 27, paychecks for 44,800 more state workers come due, as those from the Department of Children and Family Services, Revenue, Human Services and Corrections join the ranks of slave labor.

With the exception of employees deemed essential — State Police, prison guards — there’s little the state’s leaders can do to make people show up for work without pay except to appeal to their sense of duty to those who receive the services they provide. Fortunately, the state’s unions are playing nice — so far — while suggesting they won’t hesitate to enforce contracts that guarantee their members’ paychecks in these situations.

In any given month, the comptroller’s office makes out more than $2 billion in checks to cover non-payroll expenses. At the top of the list, budget or no budget, are income-support payments to the indigent — food stamp families, the aged and the disabled. Also protected are state retirement benefits, income tax refunds and debt service on some state bonds.

Beyond that, just about everything else is fair game. A Medicaid backlog of at least $1.2 billion, with some vendors waiting 100 days-plus for payment, could grow bigger and longer. Potentially, the kids in the governor’s beloved “All Kids” program could begin waiting to see a doctor, too, which would make them ironic hostages to this budget deadlock given that part of the holdup has been Rod Blagojevich’s push for universal health care. Social services would get smacked — they always do — as would the likes of foster care providers.

All of which means there’s no small incentive to reach an accommodation. With each passing day in this, already the longest overtime session in the state’s history, it becomes that much harder to do anything significant or new as opposed to just plugging the leaks in the dam holding back a Lake Michigan of misery.

The governor and his staff assure that they’re “prepared” for “whatever contingency is necessary.” They’ve promised that employees who go to work will get paid, eventually. Their reluctance to be more specific suggests they might also be flying by the seat of their pants.

So at what point do state parks close? Will the state fair go on? Will citizens be able to renew their drivers’ licenses? Can sick people of limited means see a doctor? For now, we’re being told not to worry. The public’s patience is likely to be short-lived.

It’s reminiscent of a dozen years ago, when on a much bigger stage President Bill Clinton and U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich butted heads on the federal budget. Gingrich took a my-way-or-the-highway approach to those negotiations, indicating he was all too willing to put tens of thousands of federal employees out of work and bring Uncle Sam to the brink of default, if necessary, to get what he wanted. Clinton did not blink. It was the beginning of the end for Gingrich.

If there is to be a budget resolution in Illinois, all at the table must keep in mind that none of them will get exactly what they want. The clock is ticking, with hell to pay when it stops.