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Help for workers in outmoded jobs

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While Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart touts his ''new ideas'' theme on the campaign trail, a group of congressmen is trying to enact one of those ideas into law.

''It's my hope that he (Senator Hart) remembers to come back to Washington to introduce the legislation,'' quipped Rep. Bob Edgar (D) of Pennsylvania in promoting an individual training accounts bill just introduced in the House by the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition. Hart has listed such a program as one of his key ''new ideas.''

First outlined by Washington economist Pat Choate, individual training accounts would provide money for retraining workers whose industries are dying or who find themselves replaced by high technology robots. The money would come from contributions made by workers and their employers.

Aimed chiefly at workers in heavy industries, the program would ask workers and employers to pay up to $4,000 for each fund. In case of a layoff, the employee could use the fund for training in a new skill and for relocating to another region, if necessary.

The plan would be voluntary, and contributions would be tax deductible, operating as individual retirement accounts. Should a worker have no need of retraining, he could regain his contributions, plus interest, upon retirement. The employer share would revert to the employer.

The chief cost to the federal Treasury would be loss of revenue on the tax-deductible contributions. Cost estimates are rough at best, but promoters say that with up to 1 million participants, the expense would be about $72.5 million in lost government revenue for the first year.

''It embodies the philosophy of my party,'' says Rep. Sherwood R. Boehlert of New York, the Republican chief sponsor of the bill. He notes that the program would be ''voluntary, self-financing,'' and would not require ''staggering appropriations from Uncle Sam.''

Ideally, says Representative Boehlert, workers in a plant that is soon to close could enroll in skills training during their last months in the first job and move smoothly over to the next.


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