Governor of Texas
Perry assumed the office of Governor in late 2000, following the resignation of President-elect George W. Bush. He won the office in his own right in the 2002 gubernatorial election, where he received 57.80% of votes to businessman Tony Sanchez's 39.96%. He was re-elected in the 2006 gubernatorial election against three major opponents, polling 39% of votes against runner-up Chris Bell with 29.8%. In the 2010 gubernatorial election, Perry became the first Texas governor to be elected to three four-year terms, polling 54.97% of votes to Bill White's 42.48%.
In the 2001 legislative session, Perry set a record for his use of the veto, rejecting legislation more than any other governor in any single legislative session in the history of the state since Reconstruction. Although he was more conservative with the veto in later sessions, he had used the veto 273 times as of 2011, more than any other Texas governor.
In his presidential campaign, Perry has highlighted the economic success Texas achieved under his governorship, although the true success of his policies has been questioned. A proclaimed proponent of fiscal conservatism, Perry has often campaigned on job growth and tax issues, such his opposition to creating a state income tax. Perry refused in 2002 to promise not to raise taxes as governor, and in the following years did propose or approve various tax increases. In 2009, however, Perry signed Grover Norquist's pledge to "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes".
In 2003, Perry signed legislation that created the Texas Enterprise Fund, which has since given $435 million in grants to businesses. The New York Times reported that many of the companies receiving grants, or their chief executives, have made contributions to Perry's campaigns or to the Republican Governors Association.
As Governor, Perry has been an outspoken opponent of federal health-care reform proposals and of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, describing the latter as "socialism on American soil".
During Perry's governorship, Texas rose from second to first among states with the highest proportion of uninsured residents at 26%, and has the lowest level of access to prenatal care. Perry and the Republican-led state legislature have cut Medicaid spending; a 2008 request by Texas to cut benefits further was denied by the Bush administration, which said there was no precedent for such limited coverage. Texas ranks next-to-last among states in terms of affordability of health insurance. Perry's office has argued that Texas represents a model private-sector approach to health-care. His spokeswoman stated that "Texas does provide an adequate safety net to those truly in need... and many individuals simply choose not to purchase healthcare coverage."
Perry has supported tort reform to limit malpractice lawsuits against doctors, and as lieutenant governor he had tried and failed to limit class action awards and allowing plaintiffs to allocate liability awards among several defendants. In 2003, Perry sponsored a controversial state constitutional amendment to cap medical malpractice awards, which was narrowly approved by voters.
Perry is pro-life and has signed multiple bills creating new rules or restrictions for abortion procedures and funding for such. These bills include a May 2010 law requiring that a sonogram be performed prior to every abortion, and that the practitioner discuss the sonogram images with the patient except in limited cases where the patient may waive the explanation.
In February 2007, Perry issued an executive order mandating that Texas girls receive the HPV vaccine, which protects against some strains of the human papilloma virus, a contributing factor to some forms of cervical cancer. Following the move, news outlets reported various apparent financial connections between Perry and the vaccine's manufacturer, Merck. Merck's political action committee has contributed $28,500 since 2001 to Perry's campaigns. The order was criticized by some parents and social conservatives, and a lawsuit was filed later that month. In May 2007, the Texas Legislature passed a bill undoing the order; Perry did not veto the bill, saying the veto would have been overruled, but blamed lawmakers who supported the bill for the deaths of future cancer victims.
Perry grew up in the Methodist church and, until 2010, attended the same church that George W. Bush attended in Austin. In 2006 Perry stated that he believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and that those who don't accept Jesus as their savior will go to hell. He later clarified, "I don't know that there's any human being that has the ability to interpret what God and his final decision-making is going to be." In his 2008 book On My Honor, Perry expressed his views on the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. "Let's be clear: I don't believe government, which taxes people regardless of their faith, should espouse a specific faith. I also don't think we should allow a small minority of atheists to sanitize our civil dialogue on religious references." In June 2011, Perry proclaimed August 6 as a Day of Prayer and Fasting, inviting other governors to join him in a prayer meeting hosted by the American Family Association in Houston. The event was criticized as going beyond prayer and fasting to include launching Perry's presidential campaign.
Perry has called himself "a firm believer in intelligent design as a matter of faith and intellect", and has expressed support for its teaching alongside evolution in Texas schools, but has also said that "educators and local school officials, not the governor, should determine science curriculum."
Perry has repeatedly attacked the Robin Hood plan to provide court-mandated equitable school financing for all school districts in the state. In 2005, following rejection of Perry's proposal to replace the Robin Hood plan, Perry vetoed all funding for public schools for the 2007–2008 biennium, saying he would not "approve an education budget that shortchanges teacher salary increases, textbooks, education technology, and education reforms. And I cannot let $2 billion sit in some bank account when it can go directly to the classroom." Following a second rejection of Perry's bill, Perry asked John Sharp to head a task force charged with preparing a bipartisan education plan, which was subsequently adopted.
As of 2011, Texas still ranks at the bottom of many educational indicators. Compared with other states, Texas has the lowest percentage of adults with high school diplomas. Detractors including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncanhave criticized Perry regarding Texas schools' performance and class size.
In 2001, Perry expressed his pride in the enactment of the statute extending in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who meet Texas' residency requirements. It also required the undocumented students to pledge to apply for permanent residency or citizenship if this became a possibility for them.
Perry supports the death penalty. In June 2002, he vetoed a ban on the execution of mentally retarded inmates. As of August 10, 2011, Texas has carried out 234 executions since Rick Perry became governor. Cases in which Perry has been criticized for his lack of intervention include those of Cameron Todd Willingham, Frances Newton, and Mexican nationals José Medellín and Humberto Leal Garcia.
Perry did commute the death sentence of Kenneth Foster, who was convicted of murder despite evidence that he was only present at the scene of the crime. Perry also pardoned Tyrone Brown, who was sentenced to life in a Texas maximum security prison for smoking marijuana while on probation. Perry's actions in both these cases were following the recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
In 2001, Perry proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor, a $145+ billion-dollar project that would build multi-lane highways, rail lines and data lines from Oklahoma to Mexico, and from east to west in southern Texas. Instead of paying for the project with taxes, Perry proposed that it be partially financed, partially built and wholly operated by private contractors, who would subsequently receive all toll proceeds. All of Perry's gubernatorial opponents opposed the corridor project, as did the 2006 state party platforms of both the Democratic and Republican parties. After much contentious debate between supporters and opponents, an official decision of "no action" was issued by the Federal Highway Administration on July 20, 2010, formally ending the project.
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