As the tinkering continues on the tax cap/rent control/mandate relief bill, the New York Association of Counties is pushing for the state government to take over counties’ share of Medicaid costs, calling it the most important way to relieve the burden of state mandates.

It's a push that's been made in Albany in the past.

“To effectively implement a property tax cap we think the first step and the best step would be a state takeover of the county Medicaid costs,” said Mark LaVigne, deputy director of the association. “If you’re serious about property tax relief then let’s tackle the largest thing impacting county property taxes.”

Roughly speaking, counties in New York pay 20 percent of Medicaid costs, the state pays 30 percent and the federal government 50 percent, LaVigne said.

Outside of New York City, county Medicaid costs in 2011 will total an estimated $2.2 billion, nearly half of the estimated $4.45 billion in taxes that counties will levy this year, he said.

NYSAC has identified nine mandate areas that they say for 90 percent of counties’ growth in expenses: Medicaid, public assistance and safety net, child welfare, preschool special education, early intervention, indigent defense, probation, youth detention and pensions.

According to LaVigne, a 2 percent cap would allow for growth of $89 million in 2012 but that expected growth under those nine mandates would be about $279 million.

Another significant hang-up: whether to create a mandate relief panel or commission that has real teeth -- such as having the power to invalidate regulations considered "unfunded mandates."