Barely a month before Virginia's Democratic primary, Henry E. Howell's campaign for governor appears to be in serious financial trouble and has had to borrow $77,000 to meet expenses.

Campaign spending reports filed today showed that despite repayment of $20,000, Howell still was $64,836.41 in debt. The campaign had $5,027.09 in the bank on Tuesday.

Howell campaign aides said today that their finances are "on track" and that they will raise enough money for television ads to run in the final two weeks of the campaign. But the former lieutenant governor has so far fallen far short of his announced goal of raising $600,000 before the June 14 primary.

According to the report, Howell has raised $240,869.36 and spent $292,842.47, but his campaign aides said that contributions traditionally accelerate in the final weeks of a campaign.

Howell's aides said they expect former state Attorney General Andrew P. Miller, Powell's opponent in the June 14 primary, to show collections of about $600,000 when he files his initial finance report here Monday. Walter Marston, Miller's campaign manager, said today that the Howell estimates "are in the ball park" but added that the final figures will not be drawn together until Monday, the filing deadline.

Howell had said earlier this week he would file his campaign finance report early and that it would show that he did not yet have enough money to purchase television advertising. A Howell spokesman insisted today that the campaign was not in financial trouble and that the pace of donations would accelerate.

Miller yesterday began running television ads in all portions of the state except Northern Virginia and has had radio commercials playing in all major markets in the state for almost a month. Howell, by contrast, reported no media purchases in his report.

Paul Goldman, Howell's state manager, and Frank Bolling, his press secretary, today predicted that sufficient funds will come into Howell's Norfolk headquarters to insure purchase of between $65,000 and $75,000 worth of television advertising in the final two weeks of the campaign. "There's no proof that TV is that important," he said.

Both said the Howell organization never has missed a payroll for its staff of about 18 workers and said no workers have been asked to take pay cuts. Howell, in a prepared statement released here, said many of his staffers were working "at low salaries" and others were working without pay "because of their dedication to the cause of Virginia populism."

Today's report clearly showed that Howell, despite the endorsement of the State AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education has been unable to tap labor organizations for as many contributions as he received from them in his 1973 campaign against Republican Mills E. Godwin.

According to the report, 21 labor groups this year have given Howell approximately $61,287 compared to the $277,856 he received in 1973 from approximately 300 labor groups. Labor donations composed 28 per cent of his $987,316 campaign against Godwin.

As in 1973, Richmond philanthropist Sydney Lewis, founder of the Best Products Co. discount chain, was Howell's largest single donor to date. Lewis gave Howell stock valued at $21,844.37, an amount that Howell says is twice the amount Lewis gave Miller this year.

Howell, a self-proclaimed populist who ran for governor in 1969 and again in 1973, has typically encountered financial troubles in his campaigns and has had to make last-minute appeals for funds for television advertising.

Until now, his staff often talked of their plans for television advertising, noting they were using Gerald Rafshoon President Carter's advertising last year. According to today's report Howell has paid Rafshoon $30,000 for his work.

Another Carter consultant, pollster Patrick Caddell was paid $14,000 by Howell and still its owed $4,000.

Howell press secretary Bolling said today that most of the unpaid bills represented bills that were in the process of being paid but had not been paid at the time the report was prepared. He did concede that the campaign is proceeding cautiously. "This is one point in the campaign where Henry Howell would would, 'We believe in pay as you go,'" Bolling said.