CHICAGO — Facing a crowded agenda and pressure to act on a Chicago transit bailout ahead of planned cuts and fare increases, Illinois lawmakers formally returned to work yesterday, with the House expected to approve two transit funding plans and the Senate acting on a bill to release $600 million in funding for public school districts.

First up, the Senate approved a budget-related bill that — once the House approves it — will clear the way for the release of nearly $600 million of operating aid for school districts after a months-long delay. An increase in state funding levels was included in the state’s $59 billion fiscal 2008 budget approved last summer but amid political bickering a companion budget implementation bill — necessary to actually release the funds — didn’t clear the General Assembly until early November.

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