GOP Senate candidate favors raising retirement age

TALLAHASSEE — Marco Rubio wants Americans to work longer and retire later to places like Florida, a stand that has drawn criticism from his Senate rivals and unnerves some in the Sunshine State where one out of every seven residents gets a Social Security check.

As the nation grapples with the fast-growing insolvency of entitlement programs, likely Republican nominee Rubio has proposed raising the retirement age and cutting benefits to younger workers. Rubio wants to raise the full-retirement age, which now ranges from 65 to 67 depending on a person’s birth year, until it reaches 70 in the next century. He would exempt people currently over 55, and the proposal would not affect the 2.5 million retiress in Florida.

He also favors allowing workers to invest part of their payroll taxes on their own.

“It’s just going to have to be reformed because if left to its current status then it bankrupts itself and then it bankrupts America,” said the 38-year-old Rubio. “If the system is now taking in less money than it’s paying out, then it’s only going to get worse as we have less workers and more retirees.”

His likely Democratic rival, Rep. Kendrick Meek, favors the creation of a bipartisan commission to examine the Social Security program. Gov. Charlie Crist, who recently abandoned the Republican Party to run as an independent, has called for giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, arguing that more money would flow into the system.

Meek said there’s no rush to make changes to the program. “Social Security doesn’t face a crisis, it just faces challenges,” Meek said. “Speaker Rubio, he’s ringing an alarm bell. The trust fund is not going to be exhausted until, projections have said, 2037. And Social Security can still meet its obligations by 75 percent of benefits promised even after that.”

Meek’s proposed commission would look at ways to strengthen the program without raising the eligibility age.