Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Term of Office:||December 21, 2000– present|
|Predecessor:||George W. Bush|
|Date of Birth:||Saturday, March 4, 1950|
|Place of Birth:||Paint Creek , Texas|
|First Lady :||Anita Perry|
|Profession:||military officer, politician|
|Lieutenant Governor:||David Dewhurst|
James Richard "Rick" Perry (born March 4, 1950) is a Republican politician and the current Governor of Texas. He assumed office in December of 2000 when then-Governor George W. Bush resigned to become President of the United States, and was elected in 2002 over Democrat Tony Sanchez.
Early life and political career
A fifth-generation Texan, Rick Perry was born in the West Texas town of Paint Creek , sixty miles north of Abilene, to ranchers Ray and Amelia Perry. His mother was a long-time Haskell County Commissioner and school board member. As a child, Perry was an active boy scout and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Perry attended Texas A&M University where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets . Perry graduated from A&M in 1972 with a degree in animal science before joining the United States Air Force flying C-130 tactical airlift in the United States, the Middle East, and Europe until 1977 when he returned to Texas with the rank of captain. He worked on his father's ranch for a year before becoming a member of the State Board of Education in 1978.
Perry served on the State Board of Education until 1986. In 1984, he was elected to the state legislature as a representative of Haskell, Texas. He served on the important House Appropriations and Calendars Committees during his three terms as state legislator. In 1989, the Dallas Morning News named him one of the most effective legislators in the 71st legislature. He was elected Commissioner of Agriculture in 1990, defeating future radio talk-show host Jim Hightower, and served in that position until he became Lieutenant Governor in 1998 under George W. Bush.
In 1982, Perry married Anita Thigpen, his childhood sweetheart whom he had known since elementary school. Anita and Rick have two children, Griffen (18) and Sydney (15). Anita attended West Texas State University and has a degree in nursing. She has spearheaded a number of health-related initiatives such as the Anita Thigpen Perry Endowment at the San Antonio Health Science Center, which focuses on nutrition, cardiovascular disease, health education and early childhood development.
Rick Perry has a particular relevance in Texas political history. Perry's prominence as a popular Republican politician in West Texas was cited by Republican strategist Karl Rove as important to the growth of the Republican Party in that part of the state. Together with Kay Bailey Hutchison's popularity among suburban and women voters and George W. Bush's success in Central Texas during his gubernatorial campaign, Rick Perry was part of an important shift in Texas politics to make the state a much more firmly Republican and conservative place.
Early in his term as governor, Rick Perry worked to reform Texas health care and make it more accessible, increasing health funding by $6 billion and the famous CHIP program (Children's Health Insurance Program) which was designed to insure 500,000 children. Some of these programs have faced funding problems in recent years. He also greatly increased school funding prior to the 2002 election, creating new scholarship programs to help needy children in Texas including $300 million for the Texas GRANT Scholarship Program . A total of $9 billion was allocated to Texas public schools, colleges, and universities and combined with a new emphasis on accountability for both teachers and students.
Perry's campaign for lieutenant governor and governor rested to a large extent on a tough stance on crime. In June 2002, Perry vetoed a ban on the execution of mentally-retarded inmates. He has also backed block grants for crime programs.
Another important element of Perry's platform has been tort reform; as lieutenant governor he had tried and failed to place a limit on class action awards and allowing plaintiffs to distribute awards among several liable sources. In 2003, Perry sponsored a controversial proposal that capped medical malpractice rewards; this proposal ultimately passed.
Perry, a committed fiscal conservative, has made tax reform and job growth chief aims of his policies as governor. Perry resisted new income and sales taxes, protected the state's Rainy Day fund , balanced the state budget, and worked to reduce property taxes that exploded with inflation in property values in the late 1990s. He has been credited with attracting thousands of jobs to Texas in recent years by cutting payroll and property taxes. His sales tax cuts have attracted new retail to Texas but in recent years his tax relief has come under scrutiny for sapping strength from government programs, particularly education.
Perry has faced considerable resistance in balancing fiscal conservatism, education equity, and the politics of school finance. As lieutenant governor, he initially sponsored a controversial school vouchers bill as an alternative to the Robin Hood proposal that was working at the time. In 2004, Perry attacked the same Robin Hood plan as a part of the education system's woes and attempted to get the legislature to finally abolish the system and replace it with one that he believed would encourage greater equity, cost less, not increase property or sales taxes, and not discourage job growth by legalizing video lottery terminals at racetracks and on Indian reservations and higher cigarette taxes.
A special session of the legislature was convened in May to address the issues, but there was considerable resistance in the house, even from Speaker Tom Craddick . Perry's proposal was attacked by Democrats and many Republicans who represent property-poor districts and rejected 126-0. During the session, Perry became involved in a heated debate with his own Comptroller, Republican Carol Keeton Strayhorn about the merits of his school finance proposal. Strayhorn is rumored to be considering running against Perry in the 2006 primary.
Perry has backed states' rights on several occasions, including the ability of states to decide their own policy on the environment and on drugs rather than have it decided for them by the federal government.
Perry was criticized early in his term for sometimes humorous off-the-cuff remarks (an Austin-American Statesman editorialist called him "politically tone deaf"). He has also alienated many conservative voters in his own party for his support of the Texas Hate Crimes law and for his appointment of Democrats and liberal Republicans to high level positions within the state government. Among the appointments that conservatives criticize are Perry's first Secretary of State Henry Cuellar, now a Democrat congressman, and former State Supreme Court Justice Xavier Rodriguez, a moderate with a judicial philosophy modelled after David Souter. Perry also drew sharp criticism from the right for his successful campaign to oust conservative Supreme Court Justice Steven Wayne Smith in the 2004 Republican Primary. Smith drew Perry's ire two years earlier by defeating Rodriguez on a conservative platform.
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