Cities are fed up with Washington, wondering why a balanced budget is mandatory for them but has eluded the federal government for decades.

So they're sending Washington their own seven-point recipe.Key points drafted at the National League of Cities convention in Phoenix: Balance the federal budget. Avoid tax cuts until the budget is balanced. And spread the pain, instead of only gutting programs for the poor.

"We make tough choices at the local level. We expect them to do the same," said Greg Lashutka, mayor of Columbus, Ohio, and a vice president of the league.

"Not only are we fed up, a lot of the citizens are fed up."

The main concern to thousands of leaders from cities across the country gathered this week in Phoenix is that if the budget is balanced, it will be on their backs.

Summer jobs programs for youth, aid for the homeless and public housing for the poor will be easy targets to slash, they say.

The burden would shift to cities and states to cut services or raise taxes, they said, while other areas of the federal budget, such as defense spending and tax credits for the well-off, are protected.

It's a concern shared by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros.

"This national debate on the budget is much more than abstraction," he said Thursday, meeting with mayors of several cities. "This is real people's lives."

HUD alone is looking at possible cuts of $5.5 billion, he said.

Like Cisneros, Seattle Mayor Norman Rice said the real issue is that half of the budget is not under consideration for cuts.

"What we're having is not a choice," he said. "It's not fair. It's not equitable. Let's put everything on the table."

That is the thrust of the League of Cities' plan.

The group wants every aspect of the budget, from defense spending to tax credits and discretionary spending, to be open to cuts. The league also wants cities and states to have a say and wants to protect services for needy families and youth.

"It's time Washington cleans up its act," said Carolyn Long Banks, president of the league. "Don't spend what you don't have."

Allen Levine, a commissioner attending the conference from Lawrence, Kan., said the government needs to follow the lead of its cities.

"We wouldn't tolerate it in Lawrence; we wouldn't tolerate that in Kansas," he said. "I wish they would stop playing politics and get it done."