Sen. Barack Obama says workers should have easier access to retirement plan savings this year and next.

Obama, D-Ill., the Democratic presidential nominee, today released a “rescue plan for the middle class.”

One provision would allow for penalty-free hardship withdrawals from individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans in 2008 and 2009.

The provision would permit taxpayers to withdrawal 15% of their account funds, up to a maximum of $10,000.

Taxpayers who used the provision would have to pay income taxes on the amounts they withdrew, but not extra penalties, according to a summary of the plan released by the Obama campaign.

Obama also wants to let taxpayers over age 70.5 wait before withdrawing retirement plan assets, to eliminate pressure to sell account assets while the stock market is down and “lock in their losses.”

A third provision would increase the small business investment expensing limit to $250,000 through the end of 2009, to give small businesses an incentive to make investments.

Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., previously has proposed giving older taxpayers more time to take withdrawals from 401(k) plans.

“I welcome Sen. McCain’s proposal to waive the rules that currently force our seniors to withdraw from their 401(k)s even when the market is bad,” Obama said today during a campaign visit to Toledo, Ohio.

The withdrawal-postponement proposal is “a good idea,” but “I think we need to do even more,” Obama said.

Letting workers withdraw assets from retirement plans could help, by giving some families an alternative to selling their homes or not sending children to college, Obama said.