Pledging a strong partnership between federal and state governments, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro officially hit the campaign trail yesterday.
Ms. Ferraro told a gathering of lawmakers from all 50 states that she and Democratic standard-bearer Walter Mondale would provide an administration of compassion.
Taking a gentle swipe at the New Federalism proposals of the Reagan administration, she said, ''When federal governments wants to get rid of problems, it hands them down to state and local government.''
Chiding President Reagan for his commitment to ''get government off people's back,'' Ms. Ferraro asserted, ''We don't need government on any citizen's back in America, but we do need government on every citizen's side.''
For the United States ''to remain the land of opportunity, then those opportunities must remain equal.'' Despite the President's statements to the contrary, she said, social conditions in the nation are not improving - especially for the poor and disadvantaged.
What is needed is a government that gives every person a chance ''for a better life,'' Ms. Ferraro declared.
Speaking at the annual convention of the National Conference of State Legislatures, attended by Democrats and Republicans alike, she added that it ''is not my intent to confront the Republicans today. ... There will be plenty of time for that before November.''
Getting the national debt ''under control'' must be a major priority of the next administration, she said. ''I'm not willing to leave our children a nation of debt.''
A Mondale-Ferraro administration would see to it that the federal government shouldered its full responsibility to provide what ''only the federal government'' has the authority and resources to do.
Ms. Ferraro, the first woman and first Italian-American to be nominated by a major party on its national ticket, included a swing through the city's Italian-American North End during her brief trip to Boston.
The Democratic vice-presidential nominee praised states for the lead they have taken in opening up government not only to women but also to young citizens , blacks, and other minority groups.
''Nowhere is the spirit of change more visible than in the states,'' she said. ''As you become more representative of the American people, you are better able to represent,'' she reminded lawmakers.
Women, whose ranks within state legislative chambers have almost tripled during the past dozen years, now hold 14 percent of the more than 7,000 seats in state government.
Pollster Louis Harris, speaking at a Tuesday session of the NCSL, said the presidential election is ''too close to call'' this early in the campaign. He also said Americans of Italian ancestry now comprise the nation's largest voting bloc. In recent elections, he said, these citizens have tended to support Republican presidential candidates, and four years ago a strong majority of voters in this group chose Ronald Reagan.