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Chrysler expands buyout, early retirement packages

Detroit (AP) — Chrysler LLC expanded early retirement and buyout offers for workers at six of the eight factories it plans to close as part of its bankruptcy restructuring, including the Kenosha factory.

In some cases the offers are better than the ones currently on the table for all of Chrysler’s roughly 26,000 hourly workers. All the offers expire May 26 with workers expected to leave the company the following day.

Under the old offers, workers would get a $75,000 cash buyout and a $25,000 voucher to buy a car to leave the company. Workers eligible for early retirement can get $50,000 and a $25,000 car voucher.

Chrysler spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez said the new offers add a $115,000 lump-sum payment for workers with more than 10 years of seniority who chose to leave the company. They also come with 12 months of health care. The early retirement age also was reduced from 55 to 50, she said.

At two factories, St. Louis North and South, workers within two years of retirement eligibility on the dates their plants close would be placed on leave of absence with 85 percent of their pay until they are eligible for retirement.

In addition to the St. Louis plants, the offers apply to the Conner Avenue plant in Detroit; the Kenosha, Wis., engine factory; the Twinsburg, Ohio, parts stamping plant and the Sterling Heights, Mich., assembly plant.

The two other plants identified for closure, Detroit Axle and Newark, Del., assembly, will not get the enhanced offers.

Chrysler is operating in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Minnesota commuter rail proposal leads to lawmaker posturing

Washington (AP) — The long-awaited Northstar commuter rail line could get a boost from a pending federal transportation package, but it’s causing squabbling among Minnesota members of Congress.

Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. On Friday he submitted $112.6 million in Minnesota projects, but didn’t include a proposal that would extend the Northstar project.

Oberstar has been the program’s leading champion, but said he will support paying for it when Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann does the same.

Her district includes much of the rail line, but she has been an outspoken critic against set-aside spending.

The rail line is slated to run from Minneapolis to Big Lake. Backers want it extended 30 miles to St. Cloud.

Doyle signs bill to expand unemployment and accept stimulus money

Madison (AP) — Gov. Jim Doyle has signed into law a bill that will expand unemployment insurance coverage and accept federal stimulus money for a variety of needs.

The bill also allows Wisconsin to accept $141 million in stimulus money to help low-income households become more energy efficient, $143 million for water infrastructure projects and $19 million for criminal justice programs.

Under the bill, unemployment benefits will be extended to those who quit jobs to relocate with their spouses, take care of ill relatives or fear domestic violence.

Also, workers in some training programs will receive up to 26 additional weeks of benefits.

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