Anne Arundel County Executive Robert A. Pascal, the leading Republican candidate for Maryland governor, said today he will pay the "several hundred dollars" cost of a luncheon for legislators and the news media featuring an out-of-state auto emissions consultant.

At the same time, Pascal denied he had ever intended to use county funds to pay for the event. A story in today's editions of The Washington Post quoted a Pascal aide as saying the executive had planned to use Anne Arundel County money.

The luncheon, held this afternoon, was an attempt by Pascal to publicize his opposition to a required vehicle inspection program and to rally bipartisan support among legislators who don't like Democratic Gov. Harry Hughes' stand on the issue.

Pascal aide Walter Chitwood, whom The Post story quoted as saying that it was his understanding county funds would be used, said today: "I may have said it. I don't deny saying it. But I can't recall."

Pascal conceded he had told a reporter last week that county funds would be used to pay for travel expenses for the consultant, Kay H. Jones, whose firm, Weston Inc., is located in West Chester, Pa. But he said Jones would not accept a fee because he was considering taking a consulting contract with the county.

Pascal has blamed Hughes for going ahead with the vehicle emission inspection program and has said the governor instead should have questioned the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's formula for determining pollution levels.

A cosponsor of the luncheon was Sen. Harry McGuirk (D-Baltimore), who has made noises about running against Hughes in the Democratic primary and is the governor's chief antagonist on the auto emissions inspections issue in the legislature.

Although consultant Jones did most of the talking about emissions at the luncheon, Pascal took the opportunity to criticize Hughes directly. "The governor is not only treading water on the issue, he is beginning to backstroke," Pascal said.

Pascal's thesis is that the federal formula for determining air pollution levels is outdated and that under a newer formula used by Jones' firm the inspections program might not be necessary and the state could save money without the threat of losing federal funds.