A Democratic bill to overhaul the nation's welfare program for families with dependent children is expected to go to the House floor next week. The bill authorizes mandatory new state training and remedial education programs to get recipients off welfare and onto payrolls. But Republicans and conservative Democrats say the bill's additional benefit improvements would make it more attractive for recipients to continue on welfare, undermining the measure's general purpose. House Ways and Means Committee member Hank Brown (R-Colo.) recently made this case before the Senate Finance Committee. Excerpts from his testimony:

As many of you will recall, the Congress undertook welfare reform last winter amidst widespread talk of consensus on the importance of work. There was then, and there is now, general agreement that dependency among welfare participants is a serious problem, and that education, training, and employment programs have a reasonable chance of reducing dependency. But when the House of Representatives took up welfare reform in earnest, it quickly became clear that the heralded consensus on dependency and work did not exist.

After months of partisan debate, the Ways and Means Committee reported out a welfare reform bill that not only fails to encourage work among welfare recipients, but actually erects new barriers to work. The most important among these are: Outright exemption of all welfare mothers with children under age 3. This provision alone exempts more than 20 percent of the caseload from participating in the employment and training programs. A prohibition on use of the Community Work Experience Program for more than six months, and under some circumstances, for more than three months. An unbiased observer might express some amazement that a bill designed to promote work contains a provision to severely limit use of the one current program that states use to give recipients direct experience in the labor force. What rational argument can be used to limit this program which has now been in existence for six years and operates in half the states? A prohibition on jobs that do not pay a "standard wage." I note in passing that no one has bothered to define what is meant by standard wage, and draw your attention to the fact that this provision limits the flexibility of officials operating these programs in the nation's cities and counties. Do we promote work by outlawing a job that a welfare mother without work experience and with limited education could fill merely because it pays 50 cents an hour less than the amount some official says should be the standard wage for that job? A prohibition on jobs that pay less than the value of welfare benefits. Who is helped when welfare regulations try to provide recipients with guarantees that no one else gets from the labor market? Millions of young Americans enter the labor force each year and take jobs that pay less than the value of a welfare package that includes AFDC {Aid to Families With Dependent Children}, food stamps, and Medicaid. But within a few years, if they work hard they are almost certain to earn much more than they would receive from welfare.

In summarizing these provisions of the House welfare reform bill, it is amazing that legislation sold to the American public as pro-work actually would restrict job referrals. What a tragedy it would be if we were to pass welfare reform legislation that erects new barriers to work, and thereby move welfare recipients even further away from the fundamental goal of independence.

. . . We cannot urge you in terms that are too strong to create a welfare reform package that avoids these foolish and shortsighted prohibitions on work.

Instead, we hope you will write legislation that advances the nation toward three goals. First, we should provide the states and localities with much greater flexibility in helping citizens who request aid from our many public assistance programs. The president's report "Up From Dependency" carefully lays out the rationale for working to achieve this goal, and proposes a specific program to help us get there. More specifically, we need to provide a broad waiver authority that would allow states to design demonstration programs addressed to dependency, to achieving greater efficiency in administration, and to encouraging better coordination among the wide range of welfare programs . . . .

Second, a good welfare reform bill should contain very strong child support enforcement provisions . . . .

Third, and most important, we urge you to create an employment and training program whose primary aim is to move welfare recipients toward independence. In our view, such a program must contain mandatory participation standards. The standards should start low -- at perhaps 15 percent of the nonexempt caseload -- and build gradually over a decade or so until around three-quarters of AFDC recipients are involved in a program designed to lead to employment.

Not everyone agrees that participation standards are appropriate at this time. However, federal law has required work for more than two decades, and yet many of the states have failed to involve more than a small fraction of their caseloads in actual employment programs. Recipients of public assistance must understand that public benefits are accompanied by public obligations -- by civic accountability. The federal government must set the tone for this change in welfare philosophy. We know of no way to do so other than by requiring participation and setting specific goals for the states.

Participation standards are the heart of welfare reform. But if we expect states to impose these standards on recipients, we also realize that the federal government must be willing to pay part of the bill. Thus, we would immediately commit $500 million to support state-designed employment and training programs, and greater sums in subsequent years if the programs are being effectively implemented by the states.

Federal funding of employment and training programs brings me to the next principle that we suggest you consider in fashioning your welfare reform bill. Whatever financing mechanism you select, we urge you to include incentives that reward states that actually place welfare recipients in jobs . . . .

Finally, we are aware that welfare clients need some assistance during the period of transition from welfare dependence to productive participation in the labor force. Current law contains no provisions specifically focused on ensur- ing child care assistance during the transition

period . . . .

Again, there are surely a host of excellent approaches to providing transition child care. But the best ones will tie benefits to income, and will require some contribution from former recipients from the very beginning. Above all, good child care provisions will neither require nor encourage use of center-based or other expensive forms of child care. Let parents make their own arrangements, and provide them with some financial help.

All of us -- Republicans and Democrats -- are faced with an historic opportunity to reform America's welfare programs. Increasing state flexibility can stimulate creativity at the state and local level, and in all likelihood encourage a stream of innovative welfare strategies that will breathe new life into our welfare programs . . . .