WASHINGTON --A private-seCtor advisory group last week renewed its plea for Congress to merge the bank and thrift insurance funds, but a key lawmaker immediately objected to one part of its plan.

The Savings Association Insurance Fund Industry Advisory Committee said up to $6 billion not needed by the Resolution Trust Corp. should be made available to the merged fund. The merger would ensure that thrifts don't end up at a competitive disadvantage to banks, the panel said.

The Bank Insurance Fund is expected to recapitaiize next year, paving the way for significantly lower deposit insurance premiums. By contrast, thrifts will continue to pay premiums at a higher level for years to come.

House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Tex., said that while he has not decided on a solution, "I don't foresee the need for a taxpayer bailout."

A spokeswoman for Rep. Gonzalez said, "Congress just is not in the mood to put out more taxpayer money" to keep thrifts' deposit insurance premiums on a par with those banks pay.

However, she said, "Chairman Gonzalez is very sympathetic to SAIF's plight;' and solving the dilemma will be "a very high priority" early next year.

The approach of the advisory committee, which was created by Congress in 1989, mirrors that of the thrift industry's main trade group, the Savings and Community Bankers of America.

The SAIF advisory commiuee's report portrays its proposal to divert $5 billion to $6 billion in unspent Resolution Trust Corp. funds to the SAIF as part of a funds merger as a means to avoid taxpayer expenditures.

Chris Lewis, director of banking and housing policy for the Consumer Federation of America, said his group supports a funds merger and may favor diverting unused RTC funds.

However, "unused appropriated monies are still taxpayer monies," Mr. Lewis said. "You can't get around that one."

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