Clinton, Dole to present rival welfare-reform plans


WASHINGTON -- President Clinton and Senate Republican leader Bob Dole will offer competing proposals tomorrow to overcome a political impasse that has stalled welfare legislation for two months.

The two are scheduled to outline their proposals in speeches to the National Governors' Association, meeting in Burlington, Vt. Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin, a Republican who is the group's incoming chairman, said he would work to line up support for Mr. Dole's plan.

Administration officials said yesterday that Mr. Clinton, in an effort to recapture the initiative on welfare, would announce steps to encourage states to move more of their welfare recipients into jobs. At present, fewer than 10 percent of the 5 million adults on welfare are employed.

A senior administration official said Mr. Clinton would also give states more flexibility in running their welfare programs, a priority for governors from both parties as well as for congressional Republicans.

Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat who chairs the National Governors' Association, and Mr. Thompson, the Republican vice chairman, opened the group's annual three-day meeting yesterday expressing concern that the states would be given responsibility for welfare, Medicare and Medicaid without the flexibility to run them.

"I am very nervous about what is going on in Congress because they have a long tradition of not giving us that kind of flexibility," said Mr. Dean. "If this Congress cuts the budget in both Medicare and Medicaid and doesn't give us flexibility, we are dead. We cannot run that program with their mandates and no money."

Leaders of the NGA's dominant Republican Governors' Association sounded the same concerns after a closed-door caucus later in the day.

Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, the caucus chairman, said GOP governors have been working with Congress to develop a Medicaid program in which states would be given more flexibility to run the medical program for the poor the way they see fit.

"Those flexibilities are critical," he said. "We need to have the capacity to literally re-do and re-think the way we deliver basic services.

"If we have to take the Medicaid program and simply take a federal label off and put a state label on it, and still deal with the same regulations, then we cannot remake these programs the way it is necessary for us to save the money."

Mr. Thompson, who on Tuesday will succeed Mr. Dean as NGA chairman, has said his and other states probably could run the Medicaid program with the same money or even less, but only if given authority to institute co-payments or deductibles or otherwise hold down costs.

"The federal government has mandated so many things upon us and restricted our opportunities for setting up our own programs in Medicaid, that it is costing us," he said.

Mr. Dole's proposal would give each state a lump sum of federal money, known as a block grant, to assist poor people. State officials would have far more discretion in deciding how to use the money.

Mr. Dole, the front-running candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has for several weeks been struggling to broker a compromise on welfare legislation. Bills approved by the House and by the Senate Finance Committee are, in general, much tougher than Mr. Clinton's proposals and would set more stringent work requirements.

Mr. Dole's proposal builds on the measure approved in May by the Senate Finance Committee. A bloc of 24 conservative Republicans led by Sen. Phil Gramm, the Texan who is one of Mr. Dole's chief rivals for the party's presidential nomination, rebelled against that measure, forcing Mr. Dole to move to the right in his search for a Republican consensus.

Aides to Mr. Dole said his plan would place him in the middle, between a conservative bill drafted by Mr. Gramm and a liberal

alternative to be offered by Senate Democrats.

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