WASHINGTON -- Governors of both parties said on Saturday that they knew federal budget cuts were coming, and they pleaded with President Obama and Congress to give them more discretion over the use of federal money so they could minimize the pain for their citizens.
The governors, arriving here for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, said that the automatic across-the-board cuts in federal spending that are scheduled to begin at the end of the week, were creating havoc, threatening jobs and sapping economic growth in their states.
They urged the president and Congress to strike a deal that would allow state officials to set priorities and prune spending in a more selective way. They said the cuts would be easier to cope with if they had more freedom to decide how to allocate the savings in education, health care and public safety programs.
"We are just saying -- as you identify the federal cuts and savings -- give us flexibility to make the cuts where they will do the least harm to our citizens," said Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, a Republican and the vice chairwoman of the association. "Don't balance the federal budget on the backs of state governments."
Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, a Democrat and the chairman of the association, said: "Deficit reduction should not be accomplished simply by shifting costs from the federal government to the states or by imposing unfunded mandates. States should be given increased flexibility to create efficiencies and to achieve results."
With more discretion, Mr. Markell said, governors could moderate the effects of the looming cuts.
"We know that cuts are coming, but we don't want to suffer disproportionately," Mr. Markell said. "We want to have some input. We want a seat at the table."
If the stalemate between Mr. Obama and Congress continues, the across-the-board cuts will begin to take effect Friday under a budget procedure known as sequestration.
"The uncertainty of sequestration is really harming our states and the national economy," Ms. Fallin said. "I've already had several companies in Oklahoma tell me they are not going to expand because there's so much uncertainty, especially around our military installations. It's projected that we could lose up to 8,000 military jobs, with a multiplier effect on up to 20,000 jobs in Oklahoma's economy."
Mr. Markell said: "The uncertainty of how much will be cut, from where and when, can undermine our budget. It can also slow the economic growth in our states. State economies are slowly recovering and just returning now to the level of revenues we collected back in 2008."
The governors put aside their partisan disagreements and united in sending an urgent message to Congress.
"We do need to get our national deficit down," Ms. Fallin said, "but give us flexibility. Relax those mandates. Give us some leeway."
Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado, a Democrat, agreed that the federal deficit and debt were "a serious risk," saying, "We recognize that we will have to be part of the solution and share the pain."
But Mr. Hickenlooper said the across-the-board cuts were a blunt instrument. "Sequestration was originally designed by both the administration and Congress as something so odious, so repellent, that it would force both sides to a compromise," he said.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican, said Congress should be "more strategic" in making cuts.
"I think there should be limited government, but I don't like random changes," Mr. Walker said. "If you look at my budget, I did not do across-the-board cuts."
Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, a Democrat, said the automatic cuts could force layoffs of 19,000 workers at the Pacific Command and Pearl Harbor.
"That will undermine our capacity for readiness at Pearl Harbor," Mr. Abercrombie said, and it symbolizes what happens when Congress fails to meet its responsibilities.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.