Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Henry E. Howell told a meeting of party leaders today that his republican opponent, Lt. Gov. John N. Dalton, has "been to busy making more than a million dollars" to serve the people of the state.

"You can't serve the people and be a money-maker," Howell said at a meeting called to demonstrate the unity of the philosophically diverse ticket nominated in the Democratic primary last Tuesday.

In response, Dalton's press secretary said the Republican nominee has spent "more than half his time during the past four years on the job of lieutenant governor," which pays $10,500 a year.

Howell made it clear that he expects to make Dalton's wealth an issue in the coming campaign. "I want the people to start thinking about this," he said. "It's important."

Dalton has served in the General Assembly or as lieutenant governor since 1966, but because of his unassuming manner and small town background most of his political associates had not thought of him as a wealthy man.

Dalton recently revealed that he is a successful land developer, farm operator and investor.

Aides estimated that Dalton is worth about $1.25 million and that his wife and four children each have similar holdings.

Howell told the Democratic officials that Dalton's business activities had prevented him from effective public service: "Johnny Dalton has never once said that the old people of Virginia, working with the Carter administration, should have false teeth when they need them, should have hearing aids when they use them and eyeglasses when they need them and can't afford them.

"Millionaires don't think about that. Some of them. Johnny Dalton didn't because he was too busy.

"Johnny Dalton has never gone to court to get rid of the poll tax. He's never witnessed for one man, one vote. He's for ERA (the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) with equivocation. He's never appeared before the State Corporation Commission to speak for the people on fair regulation - for a fair divided for the stockholders but an end to extravagance and waste and mismanagement that characterizes an important institution, the Virginia Electric and Power Co."

Saying that Dalton had not spoken to campaign issues raised by Howell, the Democratic candidate added, "Johnny Dalton's been too busy making millions, a million, over a million. We want to be accurate about that."

Dalton responding to the Howell speech through press secretary Richard Lobb, said that Dalton was one of the lawyers who worked on a case that overturned a Virginia law requiring voters to have a certificate of registration to vote. The certificate, Lobb said, was required by the General Assembly after the poll tax was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was intended to discourage voting, he said.

The poll tax and certificate of registration were tools used by the once dominant Democratic Byrd Organization to hold down the vote in Virginia and especially to discourage black Virginians from voting. Republicans, including Dalton's father, U.S. District Court Judge Ted Dalton, who ran for governor in 1953 and 1957, and liberal Democrats such as Howell fought to eliminate these voting restrictions. Both were finally ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lobb also said of the charge that Dalton had been "too busy" to spend time on public affairs, "In 10 years in the General Assembly, John Dalton never missed a day that the House of Delegates or Senate was in session. In 1972, Henry Howell quit presiding over the Senate for two days so he could campaign for Hubert Humphrey."

The Democrats at today's meeting established a committee to coordinate the separate campaigns that will be waged by Howell, the gubernatorial candidate, Charles S. Robb, the nominee for lieutenant governor, and Edward E. Lane, the conservative nominee for attorney general. Rep. Herbert E. Harris, congressman from Northern Virginia's eighth District, was named chairman of the coordinating committee. He is a longtime Howell supporter.

Howell defeated former Attorney General Andrew P. Miller in the Democratic primary for governor. Miller was not present at the unity meeting today, but his campaign director, Walter A. Marston, read a letter from Miller Pledging his support of the entire Democratic ticket.

Howell a populist, and Lane a conservative have been on the opposite side of most major political fights in Virginia during the last 25 years. The presence of Lane and Robb on the same ticket with him has led Howell to call it the "Rainbow Ticket," a name he stood by today despite a suggestion by Harris that it should be called the "Mosaic Ticket."

"Well can it the Rainbow Ticket," said Howell, "because in the country stores of Virginia they know what a rainbow is."

Del. James M. Thomson, House majority leader from Alexandria, declared in the final speech here today that intraparty differences would not interfere with election of the Democratic ticket. "The Democratic Party is big enough to cover the spectrum of all political thinking," he said.