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If the federal government caps the money it gives states for their Medicaid programs, county taxpayers in New York would benefit, Erie County's Republican legislators said this week.

The federal government now covers half of the Medicaid bills generated in New York -- the lowest percentage among the 50 states. Because there is no limit on how much a state can spend, New York's lavish Medicaid program actually brings it more federal dollars than any other state, nearly $13 billion in its current fiscal year.

New York State leaders then split the remaining costs with their counties, one of only two states that expect counties to share the burden.

If Washington capped the raw dollar amount it's willing to give, states such as New York would be forced to cut costs, the county lawmakers said.

"Any savings would trickle down to county taxpayers," said Legislator Charles M. Swanick, R-Kenmore.

"All taxpayers would see the benefit," added Elise M. Cusack, R-Amherst.

The Legislature's Republicans have planned a series of announcements to reform Medicaid, which has contributed to the 2005 budget crisis.

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