Future raises for the government's million-plus white collar workers could be linked to wage scales of their counterparts working for the City of Rockville, Arlington County or for the states of Mississippi and New York under a plan being considered by the Reagan Administration
Salaries of white-collar government workers are supposed to mirror pay rates paid for similar jobs in the private sector.
But administration officials are unhappy with the results of annual Labor Department surveys. They routinely show that Uncle Sam is a cheapskate, paying employes anywhere from 12 percent to 14 percent less than they could get with a moderate-size or large private company.
Pay for the government's white collar workers -- including 300,000 here with an average salary of more than $26,000 -- are supposed to be "comparable" with the private sector. Comparability is determined by annual surveys of private industry pay.
For the past 10 years or more those surveys have resulted in proposed pay raises that are too rich for the White House or Congress to accept. In most instances Presidents -- Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan included--have proposed "alternate" pay raises that are smaller. This year, for example, white-collar civilians got a 4 percent raise when data -- based on the Labor Department survey of private firms -- indicated they were due three or four times that amount.
To broaden the scope of the pay survey -- and almost certainly to lower the amount that government workers are due to get each October -- the administration may propose that the annual wage survey be broadened to include wages paid to the 12 million state and local government employes.
While some states pay better than Uncle Sam -- particularly for top-level jobs -- salaries in most trail the federal government. Bringing them into the survey would have the effect of producing lower proposed raises that the president could support.
"The current pay system is silly! The Ford Administration wanted to change it and the Carter Administration tried to change it to include state and local government wages but congress wouldn't listen," an administration official said earlier this week.
"State and local government jobs are much closer to what federal workers are doing than many private sector jobs," he said. "It is absolutely, patently, flat-out absurd to pretend that those 12 million state and local government people don't exist!"
He said the administration -- this means the Office of Personnel Management and Office of Management and Budget -- is considering "a number of pay changes" and that broadening the pay survey to include state and local government workers is "one of the more logical options."
Any change in the pay-fixing formula would require congressional approval and that is doubtful next year. The Republican-dominated Senate would probably go along with the idea, but the House -- which ignored the plan when Jimmy Carter proposed it -- isn't likely to look kindly on a warmed-over version proposed by Ronald Reagan.
Still, it is the kind of thing that could prove popular with many voters who have been told for many years by politicians of both parties, that federal workers are overpaid.