RICHMOND, AUG. 27 -- Key members of the Virginia General Assembly said today they intend to take a more aggressive role in Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's plan to slash $1.4 billion from state spending.

In an unannounced meeting this morning that was closed to the public and reporters, senior members of the Senate Finance Committee said they agreed to call Wilder Cabinet secretaries and agency heads before the panel's subcommittees this fall to explain details of the spending cuts.

Some legislators complained that details have been vague in Wilder's budget pronouncements so far and that the administration has taken few steps to ensure that the General Assembly is informed and involved in fiscal decisions.

In previous times of fiscal hardship, "governors have as a standard practice sought out the legislature . . . tried to develop consensus," said state Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Mount Vernon).

Under Wilder, there has been a "rapid-fire series" of revenue forecasts and announcements that cuts will be required, Gartlan said, "but there has been little or no meaningful contact with the appropriate committees of the General Assembly."

"It's our duty" to be well-informed and vigorously involved in the budget process, said Senate Majority Leader Hunter B. Andrews (D-Hampton), chairman of the finance panel.

Andrews said today's meeting, attended by nine of the committee's 15 members, was closed because it was a "work session" at which "no votes were taken."

David C. Kohler, an attorney for the Virginia Press Association, said that under Virginia law legislative committee meetings must be open to the public when more than three members are present, regardless of whether votes are cast.

Committees must take a formal, public vote before going into closed session, and must certify afterward that they discussed only subjects that are exempt from the state's open-meeting law. Those steps were not taken at today's meeting, said Finance Committee director John Bennett.

The legislators' comments afterward echoed those made by many Northern Virginia local officials, who say Wilder's announcements that he intends to cut the budget mean little in the absence of facts about what programs will be reduced and how individuals will be affected.

Del. Robert B. Ball (D-Richmond), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said that "they need to be specific on things. I'm hoping that we can go down this road together, and that {Wilder's} staff will work with ours," Ball said.

Wilder press secretary, Laura Dillard, said that much of the budget detail that critics are seeking will be made public Sept. 14, when Wilder and his financial aides appear before the legislature's finance and appropriations committees. "The governor has made repeatedly clear that he welcomes the input of the legislature in the process," Dillard said.

The finance panel also intends to investigate a plan to save more than $200 million during this two-year budget cycle by changing the complex formula under which the Virginia Retirement System manages an $11 billion pension fund for state employees.

A plan to increase the projected annual yield of the fund from 6.5 percent to 8 percent has been endorsed by Wilder and approved by the retirement system's board. Because the General Assembly allocates more than $800 million annually to the fund, Bennett said, "it's certainly within the legislature's authority to ask for a review of that."

Sen. Dudley J. "Buzz" Emick Jr. (D-Botetourt), who attended today's closed meeting, said he has been distressed to learn of cuts to a community college in his area through other channels and hearsay. Emick compared the legislature's role to "a corporate board of directors . . . we have a right to know what's going on."