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July 23. 2011 10:55PM

Perry gives first NH interview

The man who appears to be on the verge of shaking up the Republican presidential race is proud of his fiscal and economic record, but is equally outspoken and “unapologetic” about his social conservatism and deep Christian faith.

“I can no sooner separate my public life from my values — I can't do that,” Texas Gov. James Richard “Rick” Perry told the New Hampshire Sunday News.

“But am I going to say that if you don't believe this particular way, you're wrong?

“Far be it from me,” he said. “The idea that I have an idea about who's going to go to heaven and who's not, I don't. That is way above my capability.”

Perry, who has been governor since George W. Bush resigned to become President in 2000 and was elected three times to full terms — unprecedented in Texas history — has been the hot “non-candidate” for about the past month.

While not polled in New Hampshire yet, he polled within a few percentage points of front-runner Mitt Romney nationally last week.

In a telephone interview, Perry, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, described himself as “a full-throated unapologetic fiscal conservative” and “an unapologetic social conservative” who is “pro-life” and “pro-traditional marriage.”

But while Texas has written into its constitution that marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman, he said New York's recent decision to implement same-sex marriage “is New York's prerogative.”

Perry said that if he runs, he would “absolutely” engage in the person-to-person type of campaign Granite Staters are accustomed to and that he gained experience as a candidate for the Texas Legislature and state agriculture commissioner.

“I love the give and take and the personal engagement,” he said.

Perry in mid-June signed a $172 billion two-year budget that spends $15 billion less than was spent in the prior budget cycle. It was reportedly the first two-year state budget in 40 years that cut spending.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently reported that while Perry has said predecessor Bush was “never a fiscal conservative,” prior to the new budget, Texas budgets had grown faster during the Perry years than during the Bush years.

Perry said that with growth in population and jobs, “you bet you're going to spend more money. The more important way to look at this is whether we spent our money efficiently.”

He said Texas “has, I believe, the fourth-lowest debt per capita of any state in the nation, and we are the lowest of any of the big states.

Since the recession officially ended in June 2009, Texas reportedly added nearly 300,000 jobs, while losing 45,500.

Perry said the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has estimated that Texas accounted for between 37 percent and 48 percent of all the jobs created in the country between April 2009 and April 2011.

On the key issue of immigration, Perry said the federal government has been “an abject failure” at securing the nation's borders, forcing Texas to budget $152 million to do Washington's job.

“It is very dangerous for American citizens to have a President who turns a blind eye to what's going on on the border,” he said.

In 2001, Perry signed into law the first state “DREAM Act,” which allows children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state universities as long as they graduated from a Texas high school and are working toward attaining citizenship.

Although criticized for it by some conservatives and some elements of the Tea Party, Perry stands by it, while opposing such a law on the federal level.

“To punish these young Texans for their parents' actions is not what America has always been about,” he said.

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