SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois Senate Democrats are working on a scaled-down borrowing plan intended to quickly pay off more than $6 billion in backlogged bills owed to state vendors, schools and municipalities.

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois Senate Democrats are working on a scaled-down borrowing plan intended to quickly pay off more than $6 billion in backlogged bills owed to state vendors, schools and municipalities.

Republicans, though, remain opposed to any additional state borrowing, and at least one Republican vote will be needed for the loan plan to win Senate approval.

Under the proposal, the state would borrow $6.17 billion and repay the amount over seven years. That is substantially different from a plan floated earlier by Gov. Pat Quinn that called for borrowing $8.7 billion and repaying the money over 14 years.

Under both plans, the recently enacted state income tax increase would provide the money to repay the bonds.

“This is not new debt. This is paying debt we already have,” said Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, sponsor of the proposal. “It’s just restructuring debt and taking that burden off of municipalities, schools and vendors.”

The borrowing plan also includes $800 million that is owed in corporate tax refunds.

Sullivan said the $6.1 billion represents the amount needed to clear up the state’s backlogged bills. He said seven years would allow the state to clear the debt in a timely fashion without putting too much pressure on state finances.

“The longer we (take to repay) the lower the payment is, and the easier it is on cash flow,” Sullivan said. “To go out 14 years, in my opinion, is just too far.”

The amount is very close to a proposal floated by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce two weeks ago. The chamber plan, though, called for the debt to be repaid in four years.

Chamber President Gary Plummer said Tuesday he talked with Sullivan about the latest proposal and endorses it.

“He explained the rationale for seven years versus four,” Plummer said. “We have assured Sen. Sullivan that we will support him. We think it’s sound policy.”

Plummer said many areas of Springfield’s economy are suffering from late state bill payments -- not just businesses, but also the city’s extensive hospital and medical community, schools and social service agencies.

Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said he remains opposed to a borrowing plan.

“This just adds fuel to making the tax (hike) permanent,” Bomke said. “I think that’s the biggest reason to be against it.”

Bomke said repayments should be limited to four years, the period when the bulk of the income tax hike is set to expire. The hike raised the personal tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent. After four years, 1.25 percent of the increase is supposed to expire. Another .5 percent is to expire after 14 years, the original Quinn borrowing proposal.

Bomke said Republicans won’t necessarily feel pressure to go along with the latest plan.

“It’s a lot easier to explain not borrowing to the general public than borrowing,” Bomke said.

Republicans said the Democrats’ plan requires $900 million from the next state budget, but none of the spending plans being drafted accounts for the money.

They also complained that the plan is backloaded, with higher payments at the end of the repayment cycle. That means interest will cost $1 billion over the life of the borrowing.

The borrowing plan is contained in a series of Senate bills that still haven’t been sent to committees for initial approval.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.