The conflict pitting unionized public employees and their allies in the Democratic Party against majority Republicans in the Wisconsin Statehouse is over, at least for now.

It ended with a lopsided victory for the GOP and its leader, Gov. Scott Walker — and for Wisconsin taxpayers, who now have a realistic hope of seeing their state’s $137 million budget gap closed without tax hikes. As long as Republicans remained united, that was the inevitable outcome, because minority Democrats didn’t have the power to bend the results their way.

That’s why all 14 Senate Democrats fled the state, thinking that by removing the supermajority needed to pass budget bills, the GOP effort to cap union salaries, require higher payments for retirement and health insurance and restrict collective bargaining to wages alone would fail.

But parliamentary procedures left the GOP another option, and lawmakers and the governor exercised it, passing the non-budget parts of the reform — including the collective bargaining restrictions, which the union said were its highest priority to defeat — without a single Democratic vote.

The victory is significant in a time of economic downturn because it says that the ability of public workers to access private resources is not infinite.

It showed that the claim that collective bargaining is sacrosanct for public unions falls apart once you realize no federal union has access to it. Five other states deny it to public workers, and it is conditional in 11 more.

Finally, the outcome showed that politicians cannot flee from the duties they were elected to fulfill without suffering unfavorable consequences.

True, this is only the first round in a much wider debate. Other states, including Ohio, Iowa, Utah and Indiana (and to a much lesser extent, Maine) are acting on similar plans, and while the budgetary parts of the Wisconsin GOP’s agenda remain pending, they will likely pass as soon as Democrats return from their self-imposed exile.

Recall campaigns are under way from both sides, so the political fallout will continue. But the Wisconsin GOP has won a victory for democracy, fiscal soundness and common sense, and that’s a milestone worth noting.