ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 7 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer said today that the people who work for him "work very hard" and he wants the General Assembly to increase the salaries of virtually every secretary and deputy secretary in his cabinet -- with some getting raises of almost $25,000.

"Our people work very hard . . . . I think they deserve them," Schaefer said of the salary requests.

Under his plan, most of his cabinet secretaries would see their annual pay increase from $70,700 to $83,000. Six others would be paid $97,400, with three persons seeing their salaries increase from the current $72,700.

Schaefer said the increases were needed to keep the employees on the state payroll, and to attract qualified candidates. But legislative leaders were not so sure.

"I have a lot of serious questions about it," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Charles J. (Buzz) Ryan (D-Prince George's), whose committee will examine the request.

"I find it kind of shocking," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Prince George's). "They're going to have to be evaluated one by one."

Miller pointed out that the plan would mean that cabinet secretaries could make more than the state's highest judge.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy makes $80,000; the rest of the judges on the court make $78,500.

Under Schaefer's plan, three top administration officials would see their annual pay jump from $72,700 to $97,400, or $12,400 more than the governor makes.

The three are Budget and Fiscal Planning Secretary Charles L. Benton Jr., Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Adele Wilzack and Superintendent of Schools David W. Hornbeck.

Schaefer successfully lobbied last year for the higher figure for three other cabinet secretaries.

Deputies to the higher-paid secretaries would earn $78,000 under the proposal.

The salary package is part of a $15.5 million plan for special pay increases for about 10,000 state workers that Schaefer will include in the fiscal 1989 budget that will be submitted to the legislature on Jan. 20.

Department of Personnel head Hilda E. Ford said the special pay plan is designed to address inequities in the system or to provide special increases for jobs that are highly competitive.

She said the increase for Hornbeck's position was justified because school superintendents in Montgomery and Prince George's counties are paid more than $95,000. She noted that both health and mental health programs are overseen by Wilzack, while many states have separate directors for each.

And she noted the complexity of the budget in Benton's case, and pointed out that several university presidents in the state make more than $100,000.

Benton was finance director of Baltimore when Schaefer was mayor there. He retired last year and receives a $50,000 annual pension from the city for his 30 years of work there. He took the state job in September.