Midwest Memo: Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It’s official: Chrysler repaid $7.6 billion in loans this afternoon to the United States and Canadian governments.

The automaker plans to mark the occasion in a ceremony at an assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan where the Chrysler 200 is built. Our partner station Michigan Radio reports the payments are expected to save $300 million per year in interest.

In terms of the company’s history, USA Today says it’s the biggest moment since the completion of a similar turnaround under Lee Iaccocca, but there’s not as much acclaim this time around.

Chrysler’s repayment should be a victory lap for President Obama and provides “proof of the resilience embedded in a town whose name is shorthand for industrial decline,” writes columnist Daniel Howes in the Detroit News.

More good news for the Motor City: Automation Alley, a partnership that promotes growth in southeast Michigan, has teamed with former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda to provide $100 million in funding for entrepreneurs, according to the Detroit Free Press. And, the United States government will buy Chevy Volts for its fleet and install recharging facilities in five cities.

Elsewhere in the Midwest today:

Illinois treasurer Dan Rutherford tells CNBC the state is on the brink of financial disaster. He said he needs to “pull a fire alarm” and prevent further debt.

An international economic organization will conduct an 18-month study of the Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana to determine why the tri-state region lags in growth. Indiana refuses to participate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study, reports the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Amid a Reuters report that state and local governments will shed 450,000 jobs in fiscal year 2012, our partner Ideastream notes cities in Ohio are already facing local funding cuts. “We send them dollars and they send us back pennies,” Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson tells Ideastream.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gained power to block rules written by state agencies and other elected officials under legislation he signed Monday, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It’s “unprecedented authority” notes a Democratic lawmaker.

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