President Carter prepared yesterday for formal announcement tonight of his new wage-price guidelines plan, with signs that the program will be far more elaborate - and complex - than officials have hinted so far.
Those attending a private briefing on the plan the White House held yesterday for congressional staffers said the guidelines involve a barrage of intricate rules and exceptions reminiscent of the Nixon-era mandatory controls.
Carter's program will be voluntary, however.
The president is slated to describe the new plan in a nationally televised speech scheduled for 10 p.m. The guidelines would be retrocative to Oct.1.
The plan includes two previously unreported elements concerning compliance with the price guidelines for business:
The administration plans to enforce the price guidelines by requiring companies seeking to bid on government contracts to certify in advance that they are complying with the wage and price standards. Those which refuse or are not complying would be barred from the bidding.
The Council on Wage and Price Stability will ask the nation's 400 largest corporations to compute special weighted price indexes covering all the products they manufacture, obtaining them by subpoena if companies balk.
Large corporations would be reviewed every six months to make sure they are complying. Those that are not complying would be subject to administration sanctions and pressures.
The developments came as, separately, the administration continued to bargain with Civil Aeronautics Board Chairman Alfred E. Kahn over the job as director of the new wageprice effort.
The two sides apparently differed over how much authority the post should include.
Meanwhile, the administration disclosed two new wrinkles in its pay and price guidelines:
Companies allowed to exceed the price guidelines for special reasons, such as soaring cost increases, still would be asked to hold their average price boosts to no more than 9.5 percent, even if they are entitled to more. The limit would be applied both companywide and for each product line the firm manufacturers.
Unions would be allowed to exceed the wage guidelines in cases where they agree to changes in work rules and other practices that result in cost savings to their companies.
According to the latest verson, the guidelines involved these general standards:
Pay: Workers would be asked to limit their pay raises to an average 7 percent for the year that began Oct. 1, with the ceiling designed to include both wages and fringe benefits.
The 7 percent average would be applied separately to each of the three basic groups of workers within each firm: Unionized workers, nonunion rank-and-file workers and executives.
Cost of living escalators would be counted as a pay boost of up to 6 percent, depending upon their provisions.
Prices: Firms would be asked to compute their average price increases in 1976 and 1977, and then hold their average price boosts over the next 12 months half a percentage point below the 1976-77 average.
If a company's workers settled for a smaller wage rise than allowed under the guideline, the firm would be asked to keep its prices down that much further. Firms with big cost increases would be allowed to raise prices enough to cover them, but would have to hold their profit margins stable.
The Carter administration will attempt to gain compliance with its new bysanctions and other forms of economic pressure. For example, the government might refuse to award a contract to "violators," or could threaten to allow in more imports.
The administration also is considering similar sanctions in the case of labor unions that do not comply.
For example, officials now are studying the possibility of changing the way the government computes wages due construction workers under the Davis-Bacon Act, when sets pay scales on Federal projects.
The guidelines will be accompanied by a series of other actions, ranging from a crackdown on government spending to a partial freeze on federal jobs and a procedure for holding down the cost of government regulation.
The elements include:
A firm pledge by Carter to hold the line on spending for fiscal 1980, which will be covered by next January's budget. Although no final figures have been decided, he may propose trimming the deficit to below $30 billion.
A partial freeze on federal jobs, in which agencies would be prohibited from adding new job slots to their rosters, and would be allowed to replace only about one-fourth of their workers who leave.
Establishment of a new "Regulatory Council," comprising inflation-fighters and representatives of key regulatory agencies, to discuss proposed new regulations before they are issued to try to keep down their cost.
The council would include only representatives from administration-controlled agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, and not independent agencies such as the interstate Commerce Commission.
Carter is not expected to propose anything tonight that requires congressional approval or new legislation. However, sources said he still is considering some measures to propose to the 96th Congress in January.
While officials have made no final decisions, sources said these proposals include a possible recommendation for new tax incentives for companies and workers that comply with the guidelines, and a review of coming Social Security tax increases.