LIKE THEIR COUNTERPARTS in Maryland, Virginia's state legilators will be scrabling for dollars during their session this year, but there's one big, green difference. I's spelled s-u-r-p-l-u-s, and, if projected estimates are correct, it comes to about $183 million more than anyone expected. What everyone expects is much election-year jockeying for financial position and local pieces of the action. Gov. John N. Dalton, too, will offer some ideas today on how he would like most of that money to be directed.

Mr. Dalton is expected to propose the earmarking of most of the surplus for salary increases of state employees, for education programs and for making up a deficit in the state's Medicaid budget. That's broad enought o have some appeal for most members of the General Assembly. But there will be attempts by some members to use some of the extra money as padding for tax cuts.One proposal worth considering would be to repeal the state sales tax on food. Del. Warren G. Stambaugh (D-Arlington) is sponsor of a bill that would accomplish this in stages over the next six years. While this proposal may need some adjusting, some relief is in order.

Unlike last year in Richmond, when much legilative energy was directed to the issue of state financeing of Metro and other tansportation projects, the legilature shouldn't have to consider new tax measures. There is a danger, of course, that some of the lawmakers may jump at a chance to repeal or otherwise wreck the Northern Virginia gasoline tax that is so critical to Metro Financing.

The biggest issue this year is one that won't be formally handled during the session that opens today: reapportionment of Virginia's legislative and congressional districts on the basis of the 1980 census. This monumental and politically charged task will be taken up officially when the legilature meets in April for its first veto-override session. In the meantime, however, for better or for worse, many a deal will be cut in Richmond that may provide some clues as to how the redistricting will turn out. Whatever the result, it will be felt throughout the state for the next decade.