The budget was passed by both houses after extended private negotiations among the leadership and individual members. In this segment of Up Front, Jay Heck, executive director for Common Cause Wisconsin, complains about the lack of openness and transparency in this process. See the video here.
I expect many legislators would argue that open meetings stifle the negotiation necessary to reach agreement on complex issues, such as the budget. Legislators need to give as well as get and public meetings make that difficult. The result might well be stalemate rather than transparency.
Others, such as Common Cause, would say that is exactly the problem. The private deals are not defensible on their own merits, and so can only be agreed too when the public is banned from watching. Or to put a conservative spin on it, the growth of government comes from the unwillingness of legislators to ever give up "goodies" and both earmarks and protected programs are the consequence. This holds whichever party is in control because the constituent pressures are so strong when it comes to local benefits.
My question: would "real" open meetings resolve anything? Would private deals just move to other venues (cell phone calls?). Are private goods given to individual legislators the necessary lubricant for legislation? And consider the alternative: Could a member of the Wisconsin legislature win election and reelection by consistently refusing to deal for projects or policies that are particularly beneficial to their districts? Should they try?