States will suffer if across-the-board sequestration cuts take place on Friday and they are not given flexibility to deal with those cuts, the National Conference of State Legislatures warned Tuesday.

The sequester would cut $5.8 billion of federal money for state-administered programs, NCSL, a bipartisan group that services the legislators and staff of states, commonwealths and territories, said in a release.

While states expect some reduction of federal funds, “flexibility is critical,” the group said.

“If the federal government reduces funds for state-administered programs, yet keeps in place strict standards and requirements, states would be forced to make up for the money gap by reducing other programs, raising revenue, or some combination of the two,” NCSL said. “Reducing federal funds without greater flexibility has the effect of shifting the deficit onto the states and is unacceptable.”

States also are frustrated by the continuing uncertainty from Washington about the sequester, the continuing resolution funding the government for fiscal 2013 that is slated to expire March 27, and the fiscal 2014 budget, NCSL said.

Most states “end their legislative sessions in the Spring, and will face the near-impossible challenge of balancing their budgets without knowing how much federal funding to expect,” the group said.

Federal money makes up 34% of total state spending, NCSL said, adding, not knowing if or how much of the federal share of funds will drop “is essential for states as they work to balance their budgets.”

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