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DEMO THINK TANK OFFERS ALTERNATIVE TO GOP AGENDA

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A centrist Democratic think tank is calling for deep budget cuts and extensive revamping of housing and job training programs.

The Democratic Leadership Council program released Monday shares some goals with Republican themes, but differs in details, and also calls for health-care reform - something missing from the House Republican "Contract With America."The council said it hoped its 10-point program would offer Democrats a path to regaining the support of middle-class Americans who supported Republicans this year.

President Clinton is scheduled to address the group's annual dinner Tuesday night. He led the leadership council before running for president and shares its general views on welfare reform and expanding international trade.

But there are differences within the administration - and the Democratic Party as a whole - over other priorities in the council blueprint.

For example, the organization said Democrats could counter GOP budget-balancing promises by advocating cuts of $75 billion or more in federal subsidies to agribusiness, aerospace companies, the oil and gas industry and other corporate interests.

Some of the savings would be used to pay for welfare reform, family tax relief, highway and other infrastructure improvements - and some would go to deficit reduction.

But council president Al From acknowledged these subsidies were "sacred cows" with bipartisan backing in Congress and said he had no evidence Clinton was prepared to lead a charge to cut them.

And, in challenging the GOP to put substance behind its call for a balanced budget, council economist Rob Shapiro said the only fiscally sound course was to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare and to curtail benefits to more-affluent entitlement recipients.

But Clinton and Republicans have pledged not to touch Social Security, and neither party will be eager to back away from those promises.

Atop the DLC's alternative agenda was a "GI Bill for American Workers," under which more loan money would be made available to displaced workers who wanted to go to college or vocational school, with the loan paid back once they return to work. The plan also would replace many federal programs with vouchers workers could use to enroll in successful private training ventures.