On the grounds that the public is entitled to meaningful progress toward a balanced budget before members of Congress get higher pay, some lawmakers are starting to talk about repealing the House's recent 25 per cent raise for a year.

The idea sounds fine as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough.Instead, as an incentive for more competence, how about linking congressional salaries to Congress' performance?

Scripps Howard News Service, noting that Congress has set deadlines for producing a new federal budget each year, suggests some reforms along the lines of the following timetable:

- April 15: Congress must approve a budget for the following fiscal year. If this deadline is missed, congressional pay is docked $25,000, down to $100,000.

- July 15: The administration estimates the effect of the proposed budget on the deficit. Congress must adjust budget accordingly within two weeks, or another $25,000 is deducted from paychecks.

- Aug. 25: Gramm-Rudman cuts, if required, are outlined. Congress' pay is reduced by 10 times the percentage of the projected cuts. Loss of, say, another $50,000 in salary.

- Oct. 15: Gramm-Rudman cuts take effect. If such cuts are necessary, each congressman's $25,000 salary is reduced to the price of one-way airfare home.

- First Tuesday in November: American voters act accordingly.

The trouble, of course, is that such a reform would require action from a Congress that has difficulty acting and even more difficulty stinting on itself. But we can dream, can't we?