WASHINGTON (AP) _ With no dissent, the Senate today approved legislation to extend $8.5 billion in expiring tax breaks.

The measure would continue an existing research and development tax credit and ensure that millions of average taxpayers who claim numerous personal tax credits do not get tangled up in the alternative minimum tax in 1999 and 2000.

Other provisions relate to employer-provided educational assistance, a welfare-to-work tax credit and extension of a credit for electricity produced from wind and closed-loop biomass.

Under the bill, all provisions would expire Dec. 31, 2000.

Similar legislation is pending in the House, and lawmakers intend to send a measure to President Clinton for his signature before Congress adjourns for the year.

The Senate measure differs in significant detail from the five-year, $23.3 billion House bill. The House would extend the research and development tax credit for five years and make permanent the changes in the alternative minimum tax.