President Carter proposed legislation yesterday that would impose broad financial disclosure requirements on every federal employee at the GS-16 pay level and higher.

In a message to Congress, the President also called for enactment of separate, pending legislation that would authorize the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute cases of criminal wrongdoing by high government officials.

The legislation Carter proposed, called the Ethics in Government Act of 1977, essentially would extend the financial disclosure requirements that the President imposed on his Cabinet secretaries, White House staff and other presidential appointees to other government employees in policy-making positions.

Those covered would be appointees to executive-level jobs, career civil servants in the GS-16 to 18 range, and their counterparts in the foreign service and the military.

White House counsel Robert Lipshutz estimated that about 13,000 federal employees would be required to file annual reports on income, property and other financial interests.

The bill would also create an office of government ethics in the Civil Service Commission with a director who would develop and oversee regulations governing conflicts of interest and financial disclosure.

In addition, the measure would seek to diminish the so-called "revolving door" phenomenon under which government officials frequently go to work in industries they once regulated or dealt with regularly. It would do this by extending from one year to two years a ban on former government officials' appearing before the agency they served in and by including "informal" as well as formal contacts within this two-year prohibition.

All of Carter's appointees to government posts have agreed to complete financial disclosure statements as a condition of their appointments. Only and statements of Cabinet secretaries and Cabinet-rank officials have been made public thus far.

Lipshutz said yesterday that the White House had hoped to impose similar requirements for financial disclosure on other high-ranking government employees through an executive order, but was advised by the Justice Department that legislation would be necessary.

The legislation that the President proposed, which would apply only to the executive branch, would require annual disclosure of:

The sources and amount of earned income such as salary and the sources and approximate amount of income from investments.

Gifts, including transportation, lodging, food and entertainment, of $25 or more except those from relatives and "personal friends."

Real and personal property holdings of $1,000 or more, except personal items such as art works and jewelry.

Security, commodity and real property transactions of $1,000 or more.

Other financial interests, such as mineral leases, and positions held in business, professional and educational organizations and institutions.

Any agreements for future employment.

Under existing regulations, policy-making officials are required to file less extensive statements of their financial interests, which are not made public.

In a message to Congress accompany the proposal, Carter said it would fulfill his election campaign commitments on ethics in government and would "establish far-reaching safeguards against conflicts of interest and abuse of the public trust by government officials."

The President said he was not proposing his own special prosecutor bill because measures now pending in the House and Senate would be acceptable to him with minor modifications.

As described in the message and later outlined by Lipshutz, Carter is not seeking a permanent special prosecutor but favors establishment of a mechanism under which a special prosecutor would be appointed if necessary.

The prosecutor would be appointed by a special court panel - itself selected by members of the U.S. District Court in Washington - and could be removed from office only for "extraordinary impropriety or incapacity." The prosecutor would have jurisdiction to investigate alleged misconduct by the President, Vice President, members of the Cabinet and the White House staff.