Washington — State governors have appealed to Congress to help hold the balance in the ''new federalism'' proposals by President Reagan intended to decentralize government.
Five governors, led by Scott M. Matheson (D) of Utah, chairman-elect of the National Governors' Association, told the Joint Economic Committee that the burden of the proposed ''swap'' of responsibilities would weigh too heavily on the states. In the greatest proposed reshuffling of state and national responsibilities in 50 years, the decision ultimately rests with Congress.
Much of the testimony turned on the present financial plight of the states. Governor Matheson said 30 states are in the red or close to it. Govs. Edmund G. Brown Jr. (D) of California and Richard D. Lamm (D) of Colorado assailed President's cuts in aid to the poor. Mr. Brown called the economic program ''a short- and long-term disaster.'' Gov. Hugh L. Carey (D) of New York said the supply-side economic theory is ''deeply flawed.''
But, on the other hand, the governors seemed to accept the idea that state-federal relations are headed for far-reaching change.
Rep. Clarence J. Brown (R) of Ohio, ranking Republican member of the congressional panel, and a member of the President's Advisory Committee on Federalism, urged state leaders to support the readjustment, designed, he said, ''to bring governmental services closer to the people.''
Colorado's Governor Lamm charged that ''Ronald Reagan is attempting to radically alter the federal role that has been established on a bipartisan basis over the past 50 years.'' But he agreed that since the 1930s ''we've moved too far'' toward centralization of government, ''and the 1980s require balance.''
Massachusetts Gov. Edward J. King (D) argued that his reorganization of tax distribution between state and local governments marked ''a great American success story.''
Here is the proposed redistribution of federal-state responsibilities as governors explained it to congressmen:
* Medicaid becomes fully federalized.
* Food stamps, Aid to Families with Dependent Children would remain federal but highway and some AFDC costs would be shared by the states.
* States should negotiate the assumption of a portion of the costs of $31 billion in ''categorical'' programs (federal grants for specific state objectives).
* Establishment of a permanent trust by Washington to relieve ''possible financial inequities.''
The speakers warned that further US budget cuts might endanger the whole program.
''With their revenues buffeted by the national recession,'' Governor Matheson said, ''the majority of states entered 1982 either projecting deficits or teetering on the brink of deficit.'' Unlike the US government, he said, most states can't run deficits; their constitutions prohibit the practice. Block grants (advanced by Washington for general purposes as contrasted to ''categorical'' grants) are ''crucial to any reasonable restructuring of federal assistance, but not with drastic cuts in funding and little or no flexibility.''