Culver signs state worker retirement incentives

More than 1,000 state workers are expected to retire early under a package of incentives signed Wednesday by Gov. Chet Culver.

The deal is expected to save the state about $60 million and is a key part to Culver’s plan to cut $340 million from the fiscal year budget that begins July 1.

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State workers have already been forced to accept unpaid furloughs, and some have lost their jobs. Danny Homan, president of the local unit of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the retirement incentives were among the only good options for workers.

“If we don’t have these people go out the door, we’re going to have massive layoffs,” said Homan, whose union is the largest in state government.

Under the measure, workers can get cash payments of $1,000 for every year of service to the state, up to $25,000. The state also will continue to pick up its share of health insurance costs for up to five years. [Read the full article]

Denny Hecker, the Minnesota auto magnate whose face adorned billboards and buses across the Twin Cities before his empire collapsed, was indicted Wednesday on federal conspiracy, fraud and money laundering charges in an alleged scheme to defraud lenders and others of millions.

The seven-count indictment alleges the scheme was created in part to fund Hecker’s extravagant lifestyle, and ran from September 2007 through at least last June.

Hecker and a former executive in his company, Steven Joseph Leach, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five counts of wire fraud. Hecker is also charged with one count of money laundering.

Marsh Halberg, Hecker’s attorney, said Wednesday that Hecker maintains his innocence. Hecker is scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday.

“Now tomorrow, finally, is the start of a long journey for us to be able to show our side of things,” Halberg said. [Read the full article]

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Greek workers shut down schools, grounded flights and walked out of hospitals Wednesday to protest austerity measures brought on by the nation’s staggering debt, as European leaders wrangled over whether and how to come to the country’s financial rescue.

Greece’s prime minister headed to a European Union summit where leaders will take up the debt crisis Thursday. Greece’s fiscal problems have shaken the euro and underscored the interconnectedness of the global economy.

European stocks rose on hopes for a rescue plan that might take pressure off other struggling eurozone countries such as Portugal and Spain, but it is unclear what wealthier EU nations will do to help Greece. [Read the full article]

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