Michigan Republicans have been having a field day demanding the state cut, cut and cut before adding a dime of new revenue to the budget.

As always, however, the "cut to the bone" mantra sounds better when the budget ax is hewing away in someone else's back yard.

State Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer last month expressed outrage that the state Department of Natural Resources was closing 20 northern Michigan state forest campgrounds in an effort to save about $75,000.

"It's almost negligent in a near $42 billion budget not to be able to find $75,000 to keep these campgrounds open," Elsenheimer said.

You want negligent? How about refusing to find a way to properly fund state universities, community colleges and K-12 public schools? Closing a few campgrounds, including some of which lure fewer than 100 campers a year, doesn't even come close.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued an executive order that cut $166 million in appropriations to a host of programs a lot of people would consider a heck of a lot more important than 20 Up North campgrounds; $10.9 million to community colleges, $28 million to community health, $2.6 million to higher education and on and on.

That was just the tip of the budget-cutting iceberg, but we didn't see any bills calling for those funds to be replaced, did we?

To his credit, Elsenheimer didn't demand the campgrounds be re-opened. But he did write a bill that would force the state to drop a $5 increase in campground fees to $15 a night, even though the campgrounds don't bring in enough now to pay for their upkeep.

The Elsenheimer bill also would allow counties or townships to operate shuttered state campgrounds if they can get the paperwork settled.

That makes for good pro-local, anti-Lansing rhetoric, putting Elsenheimer in the role of local guy fighting state government. The last time we looked, though, every local government in the state was facing the same kinds of budget troubles the state is facing. State revenue sharing is down, health care and other costs are rising and most local governments are broke.

To think they could take on a campground that's already losing money is pie in the sky. But it sounds good.

Proposals like this one serve only to turn the conversation away from the state's brutal budget realities. Republicans keep saying there are further cuts to be made in state government but won't say where. So $75,000 isn't worth saving?

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