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Lawmakers pass $1 billion capital bill, adjourn session

BY KERRY LESTER Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Almost a day ahead of deadline, the Illinois General Assembly wrapped up its spring session early Saturday after approving a $1 billion capital bill to fund road and bridge projects around the state.

Gaveling in just after midnight and out a few minutes later, lawmakers headed home to their districts with several looming issues unaddressed - a byproduct, members said, of the upcoming November election. The House adjourned Friday evening.

The capital bill was the last order of business in a relatively quiet, election-shadowed session in which majority Democrats approved a patchwork $35.7 billion budget they acknowledged puts off tough decisions. Senate Democrats signed off Friday on a budget the House approved earlier in the week, leaving until after the election a decision whether to extend the temporary hike in the state's income tax, find other revenues or cut more than $4 billion in programs and services.

"With an election in the next six months, it's probably wise not to be overaggressive," said state Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat, adding that neither side was "happy" with the passed budget. "I feel like we've done what we need to do. Now we need to go home and see who the next governor is going to be."

The governor's race pits incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn, who has advocated the tax extension, against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, who has called for deeper spending cuts. All 118 House seats are up for re-election, as are a third of the Senate seats.

The capital construction project - approved with bipartisan support Thursday by the House - passed the Senate by a 52-5 vote without debate. Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said it would fund "shovel-ready" road and bridge projects across the state expected to start this summer.

Among the measures passed late Friday was one allowing election-day voter registration during the November election. Advocates said it'll make sure more Illinois residents' voices are heard, but Republicans called it an attempt to drive Democratic turnout.

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