As I talk with people from Millinocket to Lewiston and everywhere across the 2nd District, welfare is one topic that comes up a lot. People are frustrated. They want to know that the people who truly need help and who follow the rules are getting it, and that those who are abusing the system and breaking the rules will be held accountable. That’s not too much to ask.

So, let’s talk about welfare. You’re going to hear a lot about it this year, and it’s important that we get the facts out there before my opponent and the Wall Street special interests who are backing him start spreading lies about my record.

Here’s the principle I always fought for in the Maine Legislature: ensure our tax dollars only help people working to pull themselves out of poverty and crack down on those who abuse the system.

That’s why, when I was the Democratic leader in the Maine House, I worked with Republicans to pass the drug testing requirement that’s on the books today. By refusing to subsidize abuse, we worked to hold drug users accountable while also increasing access to treatment that breaks the cycle of drug use. Then-Republican Senate President Kevin Raye praised the “meaningful welfare reform” in the budget we created together — a budget that also included the largest tax cuts for working families in Maine history.

I also worked with Republicans and Democrats to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse. We worked to ban welfare spending on gaming, lottery tickets, liquor, tobacco and bail. We made trading MaineCare benefits a crime and added new fraud investigators, because our tax dollars matter and they should be spent responsibly.

It’s OK to get mad when people break the rules. I know it makes me mad. That’s why it is shameful of Congressman Bruce Poliquin. R-2nd District, to lecture us about personal responsibility and the importance of taxpayer money.

Congressman Poliquin cheated taxpayers by enrolling his property in the Tree Growth Tax Program even though he knew that his deed banned forestry. He paid less than $30 in property taxes per year on 10 acres of his southern Maine oceanfront estate. That’s not honesty. That’s breaking the rules to benefit yourself, and that is not the Maine way. Mainers expect personal responsibility from one another and we deserve it from our leaders and elected officials.

We live in a time of instability and change. Our jobs are moving overseas and we wonder whether there will be a secure future for ourselves and our families. Forces with big money, more powerful than any individual, put our future in doubt. But for each one of us, personal responsibility is something that is always within our control — the ability to say, “I still make my own choices.”

So when the false welfare ads start rolling this fall, remember this: my record and values are clear — I’ll always be fighting on the side of those who play by the rules, and who work hard for what they have. That’s the Maine way, and the American way.

This is our birthright as Americans. Our country’s founders wrote that “the Pursuit of Happiness” is a right given by God. Happiness itself should never be a handout — but each of us deserves the right to work and fight and struggle for our piece of the American Dream. I know we are up to the challenge.

Emily Cain is the Democratic candidate for Congress in Maine’s 2nd District.