The American Bankers Association, which opposes legislation to shore up the Savings Association Insurance Fund, has projected 1999 as the year when the fund's reserves will hit 1.25% of insured deposits - the amount required by law.

But at Tuesday's House Banking Committee hearing on SAIF, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Ricki Helfer, a leading backer of SAIF legislation, said the ABA made a mistake in its calculations. According to Ms. Helfer, without a rescue, the thrift fund won't hit 1.25% until 2001 or 2002.

The problem, FDIC senior financial analyst Jim McFadyen said, is that the ABA overestimated the thrift fund's 1995 revenues by about $200 million.

ABA chief economist Jim Chessen said the trade group did its best to come up with an accurate estimate of 1995 assessment income, but without fourth-quarter data - not released until last week - it couldn't be sure.

"We try to track this and recreate what we think the FDIC is doing," Mr. Chessen said. "If nothing else, the FDIC and ABA can agree that the SAIF is at least a year ahead of schedule."

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