RICHMOND, JAN. 18 -- Alex Weir of Fairfax County cradled his 7-year-old daughter by his side as he asked the Virginia General Assembly for millions more in funding for the mentally disabled than Gov. Gerald L. Baliles included in his 1988-1990 budget.

Weir explained that Rachel is mentally retarded and cannot speak, though he hopes she will someday. And already he is concerned about where she will live when she grows up.

"I hope when Rachel is ready to go into a group home, the waiting list won't be 30 years long," said Weir, referring to delays for those seeking placement in community residences.

Weir, speaking for the Association for Retarded Citizens of Virginia, was one of several hundred Virginians who packed a large hearing room here today for a joint session of the Senate Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee. More than 90 signed up to speak.

In an annual ritual, people made the pilgrimage from around the state to petition for more state funding for various causes. This year, the session was dominated by mental health and mental retardation advocates, who are seeking a massive infusion of money into what they say is a long-neglected area.

Others made three-minute pitches for money to fund centers for the physically handicapped, community action agencies, low-income housing, public health nurses, family life education and higher Medicaid reimbursements for doctors. Members of the committees listened with few comments and no promises.

Advocates for the mentally disabled arrived in force, many wearing buttons and sweatshirts carrying their "Make Waves Virginia" slogan. Thirty mentally ill people from a program in Fairfax County were brought in minivans to watch the proceedings.

A coalition of advocates has pushed for nearly a year for a $140 million increase over two years in funding for community services to the mentally ill, mentally retarded and substance abusers, which would nearly double the funding for such programs. Baliles included a funding initiative of $65 million more for the two-year period, $20 million the first year and $45 million the second.

At the hearings, advocates asked that the second-year figure be raised to $70 million so that the higher level would become the basis for budgets in future years.

"Until we {add funds}, we will continue to have people on the streets . . . . We will continue to have people dying if we don't have these services," said William Snavely of Alexandria, chairman of the Coalition for Mentally Disabled Citizens.

Members of the Northern Virginia Housing Coalition, including Arlington County Board member Albert C. Eisenberg, spoke in support of Baliles' $45 million addition to state funding for low- and moderate-income housing.

"The federal government has virtually run out on us {on the housing issue}, passing us the buck but not the dollar," Eisenberg said in a handwritten statement. "The affordable supply {of housing} is shrinking as apartments are bought for renovations, whose byproducts are much higher rents, massive displacements and increased overcrowding in remaining affordable units."

The House and Senate committees soon will start separate deliberations on the proposed budget and amendments to it.