President Carter's plan to slow the growth of federal pay costs by linking government salaries and fringes to hometown industry levels will get a close examination this morning from suspicious members of Congress.
Various House members -- most with big federal employe voter blocs -- have lined up to question the worth of the untested but highly touted "pay reform" plan.
The White House says reform would make U.S. pay-fixing methods fairer, and estimates it could reduce future pay raises by as much as $3 billion over several years. That last part worries civil servants, their unions and some members of Congress.
They say it works out to slicing $1,500 in future pay raises from the typical bureaucrat, a statistic that from their viewpoint doesn't sound all that fair.
Aministration officials, led by Office of Personnel Management's director Alan K. Campbell, have been doing a major grass-roots selling job, promoting the benefits of pay reform. One argument is that it is unfair for the government to pay national wage rates that result in gross overpayments to civil servants in small towns, and underpayment (compared to industry) in big cities and high cost areas.
The Carter plan would also match up the value of federal fringes against those in industry. It also would compare the pay of white-collar government workers against the 12 million state, local and municipal employes who generally are paid below federal levels.
The first step for the pay reform is to clear the Compensation and Employe Benefits Subcommittee. It's chairwoman, Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.), represents a lot of federal workers.
Spellman says she doesn't see how the Carter administration can agree that federal workers are not overpaid, then try to sell a reform package that supposedly will trim billions from future pay raise costs. Spellman has promised to take lots of time examining the reform bill. And she is guaranteeing time for congressional critics to sound off.
Opponents of the pay reform plan say the administration contradicts itself depending on whether it is talking to the Des Moines Chamber of Commerce or the Washington Chapter of the Federal Government Accountants Association.
They hope to sidetrack total reform this year by limiting it to a series of test models until administration officials can show exactly how it would work, and whether federal workers would suffer, or benefit, from linkage with hometown industry pay and parity with their local government counterparts.