Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., is holding up plans to shield thrifts from $3 billion in back taxes in hopes of cutting a better deal for a home-state institution, sources said.

Most of the industry wants to see the plan go through as soon as possible because it would protect them from taxes on bad debt reserves taken before 1988. They would, however, have to pay $1.5 billion in taxes on reserves taken after Jan. 1, 1988.

But for Continental Savings Bank in Seattle, the plan will create a big tax bill and provide little benefit. The thrift formed in 1986 and has little in pre-1988 reserves.

Senate Finance Committee staff members confirmed that they are trying to "work something out" to help Continental at Sen. Gorton's request.

Richard Swanson, Continental's president, said he hopes lawmakers will give it and similar thrifts extra time to pay the taxes. The legislation gives the industry six years to pay.

The bad debt plan will allow thrifts to convert to commercial banks without paying back taxes on the pre-1988 reserves. The plan is attached to legislation that would provide a $5,000 tax credit to defray adoption expenses for families earning less than $75,000 a year. The $1.5 billion generated by the plan would help offset cost of the adoption tax credit.

Add the American Land Title Association to the list of insurance groups opposing House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach's new banking legislation.

Ann vom Eigen, a lobbyist for the trade group, was happy to keep a low profile during the past year as bankers and independent insurance agents haggled over limits on the Comptroller of the Currency's ability to grant new insurance powers to banks. She had what she wanted: clear prohibitions on banks sales of title insurance written into the bill.

But when Rep. Leach made a last-ditch effort in April to garner bank industry support for his comprehensive bill repealing Glass-Steagall and providing regulatory relief, the title insurance ban got the boot, along with restrictions on the comptroller.

Rep. Leach's new stripped-down banking reform legislation is equally silent on title insurance, so Ms. vom Eigen is getting a little louder.

In recent letters to Rep. Leach, she blasted banks' efforts to get into the business. Allowing banks or bank holding companies to sell or underwrite title insurance on their own mortgage loans creates an "inherent conflict of interest," Ms. vom Eigen wrote in a June 18 letter to the Iowa Republican.

After trying to rein in the Comptroller's Office during the past year, Paul Equale, lobbyist for the Independent Insurance Agents of America, isn't a banking industry ally.

Still, he's hoping to enlist some bankers as allies of President Clinton's reelection campaign.

Mr. Equale is trying to put together a team of "top-notch business executives" to be "Talk Radio Trouble Shooters" who can appear on short notice for radio and television interviews.

Mr. Equale said several bankers have been approached for the project, but wouldn't reveal any names.

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