A $30 billion bridge loan from the government would cost taxpayers $16.4 billion over two years, but allowing two of the three companies to slide into bankruptcy would cost taxpayers $65.9 billion, according to a study by two Michigan consulting companies, BBK and Anderson Economic Group.

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While lawmakers debated a rescue plan for the auto industry Monday, a new study contended a bankruptcy filing by two of the Detroit carmakers would cost taxpayers four times as much as a bailout and generate broad economic fallout.

A $30 billion bridge loan from the government would cost taxpayers $16.4 billion over two years, but allowing two of the three companies to slide into bankruptcy would cost taxpayers $65.9 billion, according to a study by two Michigan consulting companies, BBK and Anderson Economic Group.

Even with a government loan, automakers and their suppliers would have to slash payrolls by almost 500,000 over the next two years, the study estimated.

However, Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings would result in the loss of 1.8 million jobs over two years — about half the industry’s total direct and indirect employment in the United States, the study contended.

“The findings indicate a bridge-loan scenario would be the more financially sound choice,” said Patrick Anderson, chief executive of Anderson Economic Group.

Those conclusions are based on several assumptions, including that the government would realize $10 billion from an equity stake in the automakers and that half of the loan would be repaid once the companies stabilized.

Most of the taxpayer losses under the bankruptcy scenario result from lost income and Social Security taxes due to layoffs, as well as higher outlays for unemployment benefits.

Some experts, however, argue that a Chapter 11 filing might be the best way for General Motors, in particular, to restructure its crushing $60 billion debt burden.

Lynn LoPucki, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles who specializes in bankruptcy law, said there were too many parties with a stake in GM’s future — union members, retirees, dealers, bondholders, suppliers — for an agreement to be devised outside bankruptcy court.

Lawmakers suggest “getting all of the creditors together in a room and agreeing on a plan to reduce GM’s debt,” LoPucki said.

“It’s impossible to get everybody in a room; there are hundreds of thousands of creditors involved here.”

In Chapter 11 proceedings, a committee would represent the interests of GM’s creditors, making it easier to reach agreement on debt restructuring and renegotiating or terminating contracts, LoPucki said.

Although bankruptcy law provides special protections for labor contracts, he said judges typically prove sympathetic to employer efforts to reduce payroll expenses — a crucial goal for GM.

“Bankruptcy will give them their best shot at survival,” LoPucki said.

Kriss Andrews, head of the auto practice at BBK, said a bankruptcy would take too long to save the automakers.

It could take months for the parties to agree on a plan for operating the company during bankruptcy, and it’s not unusual for cases to drag on for years.

While a filing could allow a company to postpone paying outstanding bills from suppliers, Andrews said it would drive customers away at a time when the automakers already are having trouble selling cars.

This year, U.S. vehicle sales are on pace to drop below 13 million units, compared with more than 16 million in 2007. Forecasters don’t expect sales to top 15 million before 2011, at the earliest.

“A bankruptcy judge can do a lot of things, but he can’t tell someone to go out and buy a car or who to buy it from,” Andrews said.