WASHINGTON - Industry representatives are scrambling to dissuade policymakers from sticking banks with the tab for repairing the thrift insurance fund.

The Independent Bankers Association of America also is pushing a plan to pull credit unions into any Savings Association Insurance Fund bailout.

"IBAA feels that all elements of the financial service industry should participate in the resolution of these national problems," IBAA executive director Kenneth A. Guenther wrote this week in a letter to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici.

IBAA targeted the New Mexico Republican because the 1996 federal budget reportedly will hit the Bank Insurance Fund for more than half the $12 billion that's needed to mend the thrift fund.

In its own letter to Sen. Domenici, the American Bankers Association opposed the plan and threatened to drag bank customers into the debate.

"We strongly believe our tens of millions of customers will be outraged when we tell them such a new tax is being imposed to pay for yet another S&L bailout," ABA executive vice president Donald G. Ogilvie wrote.

Under the government's plan, details of which are still being decided, 2.5 cents of the 4-cent premium banks are expected to pay later this year would be diverted to make interest payments on the Financing Corp. bonds sold to start the S&L cleanup in 1987. The present-value cost of those Fico interest payments, due through 2019, is about $6.5 billion.

The thrift industry would recapitalize the thrift fund through a one- time fee of about 80 basis points. Once the fund was replenished, thrift deposit insurance premiums, like bank rates, would be cut dramatically. Finally, the government's plan would use leftover Resolution Trust Corp. funds to cover the cost of unforeseen thrift failures.

The Association of Financial Services Holding Companies has come up with a plan that would free most banks from paying any part of the SAIF bill.

The association proposes that all thrifts pay a 70-basis-point fee for the right to convert to a national bank charter. That would raise $3.4 billion.

All banks that own thrift deposits, so-called Oakar institutions, would be charged a separate 179-basis-point fee, raising another $3.2 billion. (For BankAmerica Corp., which holds $13.8 billion of thrift deposits, this fee would be $246 million.)

Finally, $8.3 billion of RTC money would be used to pay off the Fico bonds.

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