Suffolk County legislators are opening up part of the budget process to the public for the first time, giving residents a chance to see the "sausage making."
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) announced last week that residents can attend meetings of the operating budget working group, which has been meeting behind closed doors. The group makes recommendations on the county executive’s proposed budget.
“The public would benefit from seeing how strongly their representatives advocate for resources for their district, and the job we do as a collective body,” Gregory said.
Meetings consisted previously of small groups of legislators getting together in the basement of the legislature, “and it just smelled rotten to me,” said Minority Leader Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said.
The county operating budget funds employee payroll costs, spending by county departments and a wide range of other expenditures.
Gregory said some lawmakers had expressed concern that public meetings of the budget working group could further politicize the budget process.
Still, it is important for the public to see the “sausage making” behind the budget, Gregory said.
“We have nothing to hide,” he said. “I hope people don’t get bored when they do see how mundane the process can be.”
The working group's next meetings will be held Oct. 17 and 21 at the legislative building in Hauppauge.
The Legislature in recent years opened up working group meetings on the capital budget and Suffolk County Community College’s budget.