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Ron Barber: We need to work together on the issues that matter to Southern Arizona

My wife, Nancy, and I have been reading this paper every week since it first started hitting Tucson's newsstands in 1984. A lot has changed since then. My hair isn't red anymore, and there's less of it; our daughters are grown; and we have four beautiful grandchildren, with one more on the way.

Twenty-eight years later, our community has grown, and we have new problems to solve, but we still have strong connections to each other—some would say we have only one degree of separation here. Nancy and I still read this paper faithfully. Its investigative reporting and political columns provide valuable insights on critical issues in this community—from the economy to border security to education to veterans issues.

Working to understand and address the needs of this community has been the focus of my life's work—including three decades as a director with the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities, six years as U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' district director, and 22 years as a small-business owner along with my wife.

Now I'm fortunate to have the chance to continue my public service as Southern Arizona's voice in Congress. I take that responsibility seriously, and have held Congress on Your Corner events to listen to the people I represent so I can focus on the issues that are important to them:

Keeping taxes low for middle-class families. I voted to extend tax cuts for middle-class families and small businesses. I also voted against more tax cuts for the richest Americans, because we need to address our deficit in a balanced, responsible way. We cannot have a thriving economy without a thriving middle class. We must not balance our budget on the backs of middle-class families, seniors, students or veterans. Keeping taxes low for middle-class families is not just the right thing to do; it's smart economic policy.

Helping our veterans and military families. As the son of an airman, and representing nearly 100,000 veterans who call Southern Arizona home, standing up for our veterans and military families has been one of my top priorities. I am a founding member of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, and I introduced amendments to provide housing for our country's 70,000 homeless veterans and to protect service-members' pay. I also worked with my colleagues across the aisle to introduce bills to protect veterans from financial scams and improve their access to health care. Our veterans have served this great country, and we all must do our part to make sure they get the benefits they have earned.

Protecting Medicare. I voted against the budget plan, which my opponent supports, that would turn Medicare into a voucher system and could force seniors to pay thousands of dollars more each year for their benefits in order to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy. Medicare is not an "entitlement" program. Seniors have paid into Medicare through a lifetime of hard work, and they have a right to the benefits that it provides. I will oppose any attempt to voucherize it.

Standing up for women. I have worked in Congress to protect the advances that women have made in this country. That includes protecting a woman's right to make her own health-care decisions, and ensuring that women have full access to the health-care services they need, including contraception. My opponent's policies are the opposite.

One reason I voted against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act is that a repeal would mean allowing employers to deny women contraception coverage in their health-insurance plans, and return us to the days when insurance companies could charge women more for insurance simply because of their gender. I'm a proud co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act and will continue to push for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Those are some issues I've been fighting for since being elected to Congress. There's a lot more work to do to rebuild our middle class, get our economy going again, care for our veterans, safeguard a woman's right to make her own health-care decisions and protect our seniors.

One thing I've learned as a member of this community over the past 50 years is that we can't address these challenges with partisan talking points. We need bipartisan solutions—solutions that make sense for Southern Arizona.

More by U.S. Rep. Ron Barber

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    • Dec 19, 2013
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