In his successful 78th district campaign last fall, Assemblyman Marty Block pledged in a television commercial that “I won’t take any salary when the legislature is late passing a budget.”

Now, Block continues to accept a salary even as the state hands out IOUs amid deadlock over how to close a $26 billion deficit.

Did Block break his promise?

No, said Christopher Ward, Block’s chief of staff, in an interview today. Block meant that he would turn down his salary if the legislature didn’t pass the state budget by the deadline required by the state constitution, Ward said.

The legislature approved the 2009-2010 state budget in February, meeting the deadline.

The current wrangling in Sacramento is over a “massive budget revision,” Ward said, not over passing the budget itself. Such adjustments could happen frequently, he said.

“If we had a budget adjustment every three months, when does the spirit of the promise end?” Ward said. “He would have to forego salary every so often.”

Block represents Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and sections of Chula Vista and eastern San Diego.

Duane Dichiara, a Republican consultant, said Block violated his promise.

“Any reasonable person knows that what they’re discussing right now is, in fact, the budget,” said Dichiara, who worked for Block’s Republican opponent, John McCann, in the election.

Members of the legislature make $116,208 a year. “Besides salary, lawmakers are entitled to about $35,000 annually in tax-free per diem for living expenses, plus use of a leased vehicle, with gasoline and maintenance,” The Sacramento Bee reports.

The Bee examined public records and reported in early June that just 17 legislators rejected the car allowance during this year of “multibillion-dollar deficit, major program cuts and mandatory salary reductions for state workers.”

Only six legislators turned down the per-diem payments.

A state commission voted this year to reduce the legislator salaries by 18 percent, but the cut can’t go into effect until 2010, the Bee reported.


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