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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mike Haridopolos, the state Senate president, and U.S. Senate candidate



State Sen. President Mike Haridopolos told members of the Tallahassee press corps Wednesday that he hasn't decided whether he'd raise money for his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign during the spring legislative session. Sitting state legislators are prohibited from fundraising for state campaigns, but there is no such requirement for people running for federal office. "I've not made that decision yet," said Haridopolos, the last person to address the annual AP Legislative Planning Session.

Haridopolos fielded several questions about his U.S. Senate campaign, saying sitting U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (who reaffirmed today his decision to run for a third term in 2012) has failed to adequately fight to keep NASA space jobs in Florida. "I'm in this race ... I want people to know it," Haridopolos said.

On state issues, Haridopolos continued to paint a grim picture when it comes to Florida's 2011-2012 state budget. Haridopolos broadly targeted three areas to make up a projected $3.62 billion budget gap --- education, Medicaid and by making state employees to contribute directly to their retirement.

He said he was open to deeper tax cuts like those proposed by Gov. Rick Scott, that he first wanted to make sure the budget was balanced without raising taxes (he said he regretted 2009 votes to raise taxes on cigarettes, along with other fees).

"We're three friends," Haridoplos said of his relationship with Scott and House Speaker Dean Cannon. "We're not Siamese twins. We all have ideas.

"The first priority I have as president of the Senate -- we will reduce spending by $3.62 billion. If there are other opportunities to reduce taxes ... we will look at that option."

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 6:57pm]


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