The Labor Department's long-controversial Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) program will expire with the fiscal year, and the administration and Congress are locked in debate about what shape the replacement should take. Assistant Labor Secretary Albert Angrisani said yesterday that, "There's really been progress in the last week or so and we're very encouraged, but we haven't ironed out all of our differences."

Negotiations so far are concentrated on the Senate side, where the so-called Quayle-Kennedy bill has proposed a $3.9 billion job-training program, most of which would be distributed as a block grant. The administration bill seeks a $2.4 billion authorization with $1.8 billion to go out as a block grant. A House bill proposes a $5.6 billion program, none of it through block grant.

The central issue, Angrisani said, is that the administration is anxious to eliminate wages for those participating in job training programs. In CETA, he said, wages, administrative costs and reimbursable items such as day care and transportation eat up 82 cents of the dollar, leaving only 18 cents for training. Under the administration plan, 75 cents would go for training, with the rest for administration and reimbursables. Since it's a block grant, of course, the states would call most of the shots.