The Senate voted Wednesday to eliminate more than 80 federal job-training and vocational programs and replace them with grants to the states.
In the 95-2 vote, Democrats agreed with Republicans to give the states funding and responsibility for such programs. Democrats have opposed GOP plans to give states similar block grants for welfare and crime-fighting.
"It offers a better approach to job training and job education that are the heart of our efforts to improve the skills of American workers in the modern economy," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.
Among the programs that would be ended by July 1, 1998, are the Job Training Partnership Act, the Adult Education Act and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act.
But the lawmakers decided to keep the Job Corps for disadvantaged youth as a national program and voted to restore one program that had been slated for termination--assistance for workers displaced by new trade policies, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Committee Chairwoman Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.) said the legislation would create "one-stop centers" where people could be given options, such as further education or on-the-job training.
It would cut 15% from the budgets of the programs to be eliminated and send the remaining funds, about $5.9 billion a year, to the states in the form of block grants.
States would be required to spend at least 25% of the money on employment activities and 25% on work-force education, and they would be free to use the rest on employment and education as they choose.