Q. If it comes down to an all-cut budget, can House Republicans be counted on to supply the needed votes?

"If House Republicans can't be counted on to support an all-cut budget, what is the reason for the existence of House Republicans?" DiSano said. "That caucus is filled with hard-line conservatives who talk tough in GOP primaries. Now is their chance to shine and cut, cut and cut some more. The question is do they have the guts to go home and explain these cuts?"

The "DiSano" quoted above is Joe DiSano of "Mainstreet Strategies," a Lansing political consulting firm. He was answering a question posed yesterday by the MIRS Capitol Capsule newsletter regarding whether House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, can get a 2010 state budget proposal through his chamber without a repeat of the big tax hikes that took place when a similar budget drama reached its climax two years ago this week. Though Mr. DiSano and his firm are well-known as political advisors to Democrat politicians, the rhetorical questions in his answer make solid points about the raison d'etre of the GOP caucus.

Will they "have the guts" to follow through on the spending side?

Consider what happened two years ago. Only two House Republicans and six GOP Senators had their fingerprints on YES votes for the $1.4 billion tax hikes. As a result of that extra $1.4 billion, fiscal 2008 state spending could be ramped up to its highest level ever: $42.8 billion. Ten of 17 budget acts that were passed to fund state government for fiscal 2008 increased by a not-coincidental combined total of more than $1.4 billion.

So, even though all but eight Republicans under the state Capitol dome can claim clean hands when it comes to the tax hikes, how dirty did their fingers get once the loot was in the room?

Answer: 21 Republicans in the House voted to approve at least $1 billion of that extra spending, and 18 of 21 GOP senators voted for all $1.4 billion of the spending increases.

Many of those House Republicans and all of the Senate Republicans are still in office.

(Note: see the Jan/Feb 2008 edition of Michigan Capitol Confidential for details: www.mackinac.org/9242.)