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After Yearlong Budget Impasse, Optimism Growing In Springfield

CHICAGO (CBS) -- State lawmakers were holding their breath Wednesday night over a tentative deal to end the epic budget stalemate.

Multiple sources said Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Mike Madigan have temporarily put aside their differences to cut a deal and ease worried school parents afraid schools won't open on time in the fall.

Rauner and the four legislative leaders have been meeting behind closed doors in Springfield almost continuously since 9 a.m., following three hours of meetings Tuesday night, fueling optimism that a deal on a stopgap budget deal and funding for public schools is moving closer.

With the budget impasse fast approaching the one-year mark, the four legislative leaders trudged into the governor's office at the Illinois State Capitol for a marathon meeting to try again to negotiate a compromise solution.

The sticking point has been education funding, particularly additional funding for the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools, which Rauner has steadfastly opposed. However, both sides might now be ready to bend.

Some of the points reportedly under discussion:

• A $250 million statewide schools poverty grant, with Chicago receiving a sizeable slice;
• a property tax hike for CPS, which must be approved by the Illinois General Assembly;
• and, starting in June 2017, pension parity for CPS, with Chicagoans no longer paying pensions for both teachers in Chicago and downstate.

The deal would be contingent on passage of pension reform for state workers, as outlined in measure sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton.

Rauner has supported Cullerton's pension reforms, but until now, House Speaker Michael Madigan has not.

Senate Democrats were scheduled to vote on their own budget proposals Wednesday, but instead were idle as they waited for news from the governor's meeting. That was seen as a clear sign of progress towards a deal.

Lawmakers adjourned for the day Wednesday evening, with the House scheduled to reconvene at 8:30 a.m. and the Senate back at 10 a.m., for potential votes on a budget deal.

Aides to the legislative leaders were expected to spend the night putting the terms of the deal into legislative language, so the plan for a stopgap budget plan and a full year of education funding could potentially be completed Thursday.

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