More than two decades of closed-door budget wrangling among Suffolk lawmakers went public Monday.

The legislature's nine-member budget working group met in an open meeting in Hauppauge to comb through County Executive Steve Bellone's proposed 2015 capital budget and three-year plan. They hope to come with a package of amendments.

"Welcome to the new world of open budget meetings," Deputy Presiding Officer Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said.

New Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) opened budget meetings after several years of protests from Thomas Cilmi (R-Islip) and Louis D'Amaro (D-North Babylon) about the secretive process. Gregory called the initiative "a pilot project" but wouldn't commit to using it for the operating budget. Cilmi praised the meeting: "All the questions asked are on the record and opinions are being expressed publicly."

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Backers of closed meetings maintain such discussions, dating back to 1991, made it easier for Republicans and Democrats to compromise without politicizing sometimes controversial issues like layoffs. Critics of closed-door meetings say the process could be abused and lead to backroom deals.

Schneiderman urged the committee -- made up of seven majority caucus members and two Republicans -- to hold capital spending next year to $93 million, the same level as this year, given a projected shortfall of $170.3 million facing the county next year.

Bellone's 2015 budget proposes to raise capital spending by $23.8 million, while the legislature's budget review office called for adding $12.4 million, aimed at maintaining infrastructure.