TRENTON - Residents who put money into a state-run college savings plan would receive an income-tax break under legislation pushed yesterday by an Assembly panel.

The bill would provide a state income-tax deduction for the first $5,000 contributed annually to the New Jersey Better Educational Savings Trust program, a college savings plan administered through the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority.

"Money put aside to pay for a child's college education should be safeguarded, not taxed," said a sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Fred Scalera (D., Essex). The Assembly Higher Education Committee released the measure, voting 7-0. It can now be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Senate committees have approved the measure, but not the full Senate.

- AP