I wrote a month ago that the Democrats seemed to be letting Governor Doyle take the glory on the budget negotiations. That turned out to be exactly what happened.
Consider, the Democrats aren't going to be losing the State Senate next year, and their odds of picking up the Assembly--absent a major Republican meltdown or some kinky redistricting--are relatively long. The legislative Democrats lose exactly zero by playing along with Governor Doyle's budget compromise. At worst, the legislative Dems can say they support Doyle and it's a great deal for the people, yadda yadda, even if the final plan lacks pretty much all of the legislative Dems' priorities.
Doyle, on the other hand, wins at every level. Doyle offered up a compromise; Doyle forced the legislature into a special session; Doyle gets pretty much all of his showpiece items (the Wisconsin Covenant, BadgerCare+, more UW funds). He looks like a winner in nearly every way. Even his one regret--that he couldn't get mandated autism coverage--was really a non-budget item and has a clear path in the Senate as soon as it's introduced.*
Legislative Republicans, however, are in it. They didn't get a budget that did what they promised--many in writing!--which was not to raise taxes or fees. Yes, they killed Healthy Wisconsin (for now), and they killed the hospital tax (which the hospitals supported). But they can't go back home and say they kept their promises if they vote for this budget. If they don't vote for it, then they're contrary ninnies who hate the children, kittens, and the elderly.
In the meantime, Doyle is perfectly positioned to be strong in his fight for the Holy Grail of Wisconsin Democratic politics: to be the first Democratic governor elected to a third term ever.
* The stupid thing about resistance to this mandate--resistance from legislators and heartless bloggers alike--is that catching and treating autism early saves tons of money later. What makes it a challenge is that insurance companies, whose lobbying cash flows freely in Madison, pay for the early detection and treatment, so they don't like the mandate. But the more expensive treatment later usually comes at taxpayer expense; you'd think legislators who hate paying for things with taxpayer money would be fighting each other to be the first in line behind Doyle's mandate.