This is an interesting week for the launching in the House of the president's controversial plan to "reform" and redirect the way Uncle Sam handles his $63 billion military-civilian payroll.
Even as top administration aides touted the merits, equity and economy of a new system linking federal wages and benefits to hometown industry rates, the government was -- temporarily -- falling apart.
Most of the federal establishment has been broke since Oct. 1, the result of Senate-Housing hassling over pay raises, and abortion-funding language. (The House moved yesterday to clear legislation that would allow agencies to keep spending at current levels until budgets finally are approved by Congress and signed by the president.)
Because of the funding failure, millions of government workers and military personnel -- due a 7 percent raise this month -- face the prospect of getting IOUs or half paychecks. And the Senate and House continue to squabble and fume at each other over the issue of an embarrassing 12.9 percent raise due them, or whether to compromise and give members and top government executives a 5.5 percent increase approved, but never paid, last year.
Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.) started day one of House hearings on the Carter pay reform plan. Her Civil Service subcommittee will handle the bill. Spellman said her heavily federal district is concerned that pay "reform" would put too much power in the president's hands, allow government to manipulate wage surveys to hold down raises, and even to cut back fringe benefits for civil servants.
Rep. Charles Wilson (D-Calif.) delivered the unkindest cut of all, saying that the Carter pay reform plan is really "a Republican bill." Some of its recommendations were first made by a pay study group headed by former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.
Office of Personnel Management's Alan K. Campbell said the reforms would save the government billions of dollars in future years, and guarantee equal pay and fringes -- on an area-by-area basis -- between the federal and private sector. One portion of the plan would tie government pay raises to local industry gains in 100-plus areas of the country.
Federal unions are suspicious of the reforms, and also bitter about administration "propaganda" to the news media showing federal workers earn much more than nonfederal employees.