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State Government

Lawmakers pass $1B capital bill, adjourn session

Illinois state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Westmont, leaves the Senate chambers at the state Capitol Friday, May  30, 2014, in Springfield Ill.
Illinois state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Westmont, leaves the Senate chambers at the state Capitol Friday, May 30, 2014, in Springfield Ill.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois General Assembly wrapped up its spring session shortly after midnight Saturday, but not before the Senate approved a $1 billion capital bill funding roads and bridge projects across the state.

Legislative leaders headed home with several looming issues unaddressed — a byproduct, members said, of the upcoming November election. The House adjourned Friday evening.

The capital bill was lawmakers' last order of business after majority Democrats in the Senate approved a patchwork $35.7 billion budget they acknowledged puts off tough decisions. House Democrats approved the budget 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. Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said it would fund "shovel-ready" road and bridge projects across the state expected to start this summer.

The election-focused session was quieter than usual.

"We have walked away and said no to things we believe have been bad for our economy, bad for families in Illinois," House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said. "My job is to win seats, enough that if Rauner is governor, it won't be this current Democratic veto-proof majority in the House."

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.

A measure that stalled was an effort to expand gambling in the state, either by adding five new casinos or one mega casino in Chicago. On Friday, Democratic Rep. Bob Rita announced he had suspended his efforts to pass the perennial expansion effort again.

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