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Althoff: Illinois Senate hopes to stake out own budget position

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, file photo, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to reporters after meeting with legislative leaders during veto session in Springfield, Ill. The General Assembly convenes Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, for just two days to finish its work before a new session begins Wednesday while the two-year budget standoff looms large. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, file photo, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to reporters after meeting with legislative leaders during veto session in Springfield, Ill. The General Assembly convenes Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, for just two days to finish its work before a new session begins Wednesday while the two-year budget standoff looms large. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

SPRINGFIELD — A plan to end a two-year Illinois budget standoff negotiated in the Senate — which likely includes an income tax increase as well as items on Gov. Bruce Rauner's agenda — could get a vote in Springfield as early as Monday, a leading Republican senator said Sunday.

The deal was still shaping up over the weekend after weeks of talks between Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and GOP Leader Christine Radogno, said Sen. Pamela Althoff, a Republican from McHenry.

While it would mark a significant step toward smashing the logjam on a state spending plan between Republican Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders, there are just two work days remaining for the current General Assembly — no time to seek a House vote.

But it could position the Senate as distinct in what has largely been a test of wills between the billionaire governor and Chicago Democrat Michael Madigan, house speaker for three decades. Rauner often invokes Madigan's name to represent the entire legislature.

Althoff, the Republican caucus chairwoman and a budget point-person, called the action "recognition" by Senate leadership that "we need to take care of the people of Illinois."

"They've been working feverishly to come up with a plan that can be presented and crafted into a solution — a true budget deal," Althoff said.

Cullerton spokesman John Patterson declined comment Sunday. Steve Brown, spokesman for Madigan, said he could not comment on the Senate's potential substance or strategy because the House hadn't been included in the talks.

Althoff said the plan would include increased revenue — Democrats have argued that Rauner's decision to let a four-year, temporary income tax hike expire in 2015 knocked the budget off-kilter and hastened the flow of red ink.

But it would also put checkmarks in several boxes on Rauner's agenda, including term limits on legislators to rotate out "career politicians" the governor believes hurt the system and a freeze on local property taxes he says is choking homeowners. To this point, Democrats have argued those are "non-budget items" that should be negotiated separately.

And it might include a plan to borrow billions of dollars to pay down overdue bills — which topped $11 billion on Friday — to vendors and service providers.

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly did not comment Sunday. On Friday, the governor told reporters in Carbondale he knew few of the details but said, "I'm optimistic that Democrats and Republicans will continue to negotiate in good faith to come up with changes to our system so it's not broken anymore."

The refusal to budge on either side has forced Illinois to limp along for two years without an approved spending plan. Government has functioned largely on the strength of court-ordered spending for social services and lawmakers' piecemeal appropriation action. But 1 million or more people relying on mental health, substance abuse treatment or domestic violence prevention funded with state dollars had been cut off.

Rauner's budget office predicts a $5.3 billion deficit on June 30, the end of the fiscal year, in addition to the mountain of past-due bills.

Legislative leaders this week scheduled only two days — Monday and Tuesday — to tie up loose ends before a new General Assembly is sworn in on Wednesday. It will be the 100th General Assembly, which will serve during the Prairie State's bicentennial in 2018.

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Contact Political Writer John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/john-oconnor.

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