Our nation is strong, thanks to its foundation of economic freedom and a robust middle class. But we cannot take this for granted - we must support economic policies that keep us fiscally sound in the 21st century. Here is where I stand on a few key topics:

Tackling the Debt

Debt is a serious issue that our country must face down. The federal debt is at historic levels and the current Congress has been paralyzed and unable to address the budget deficit. In Congress, I was a relentless advocate for fiscal responsibility. I opposed every government bailout, I co-sponsored a Balanced Budget Amendment, I returned more than $180,000 in unspent office funds to the Treasury, and I led by example and cut my own pay when Congress refused to pass my bill proposing a pay cut for all members of Congress. We will make progress on reducing the debt when we elect more leaders who are willing to reach across the aisle and work together. Partisan gamesmanship has gotten us nowhere.

Standing up for the Middle Class

Part of the American dream is the idea that people can work hard, play by the rules and achieve upward mobility. But that means we need a system that offers a balanced approach. I believe, for example, that millionaires and billionaires should pay their fair share in taxes. Currently, our middle-class working families are paying taxes at a higher rate than the super rich, and that's not right. The Bush tax cuts were supposed to be temporary, and I agree that it's time for them to expire. I differ with the president, however, because I believe those tax cuts should continue for people earning less than $500,000 a year.

Strengthening Education

When we invest in education, we're investing in jobs and a strong economy. I believe we should strengthen our schools with modern classrooms, smaller class sizes and the most qualified teachers in the world. As for higher education, we must make college more affordable. Arizona's higher-education system has suffered devastating cuts. I will fight for resources for our colleges and universities. We cannot afford to short-change our higher-education system or the students who will be our future workforce.

Kirkpatrick is the Democratic candidate in District 1, which includes Marana, Oro Valley and SaddleBrooke.