The Commonwealth of Virginia employs approximately 97,000 people, or about 1.5 percent of the state population. It is unfair to make that 1.5 percent shoulder the burden of budget deficits by the denial of merit and cost-of-living raises.

The cost of living increased 5.6 percent in 1990. State employees in the past eight years have been denied three merit raises and cost-of-living increases totaling in the double digits. It is time for the governor and General Assembly to pay up and stop making state employees carry the burden of budget deficits. Every state agency is now doing more work with less staff, and that is enough of a burden. The deficit load should be carried by all Virginians, even if taxes have to be raised. This is fair.

For national political purposes, Gov. L. Douglas Wilder wants to say he balanced the budget without raising taxes. In fact, he is guaranteeing that some taxes are going to be raised. All landowners can look for significant increases in their real estate taxes as localities scramble to make up for lost state revenues, especially education funds.

A graduated increase in corporate and personal income taxes of 0.25 percent to 1 percent for a maximum of four years would be much less of a burden for everyone. It is unfair to single out specific groups to shoulder the burden, whether they be landowners, state employees, schoolteachers or our schoolchildren. DUANE W. PHILLIPS Virginia Beach