Florida’s Mike Haridopolos, the current state senate president running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, doubled down today on his opposition to Medicare reforms in the 2012 House Republican budget proposal, saying that he would not want to see major reforms to the entitlement program until closer to 2035.

“Medicare is not a welfare program,” Haridopolos said today in an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “It is a program that each one of us at this table will have paid 47 years of taxes for, and I’m a little reluctant to make that full jump.” The 41-year-old said he thinks Medicare ought to be reformed for those closer to his own age, people who “have 25 years to prepare.”

"That's roughly what we're looking at," Haridopolis said. “If we’re going to make that transition, let’s give someone the true time to prepare.”

According to the Medicare Trustees’ Report released last month, the “trust fund” for Medicare is projected to run out by 2024. Why does Haridopolis think it's possible to delay the implementation of major reforms until 2035?

“I think it’s fair to say that the economy will grow,” Haridopolos said. “And I think it’s fair to say that you’re going to have to look at some [Department of Defense] cuts. You’re going to have to look at other areas.”

On May 31, a conservative radio talk show host in Florida asked Haridopolos if he supported the Ryan plan, but the Senate candidate refused to answer “yes” or “no” on the issue. After several attempts to get such an answer, the radio host ended the phone call. Haridopolos later clarified his position in an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel, where he said he supports the measures of the House budget except for the Medicare reform provisions.

“I’m not a bumper sticker guy who just says ‘I’m just going to automatically take this,’” Haridopolos explained today. “I thought long and hard about it. It’s the reason I was apprehensive about answering the question until I had all the facts.”

“When asked if I could support the Ryan plan in its current plan, I’d have to say no,” Haridopolos continued. “I think that if a person’s paid in for 47 years, you just can’t say, ‘Sorry about that.’”

Haridopolos is running in the Republican primary against declared candidates George LeMieux, the former U.S. senator, and Adam Hasner, the current Florida house majority leader. The GOP candidate will face incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in 2012.

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