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Perry makes N.H. rounds

'Perry heads to Hampton for town hall, stops by Manchester for house party'

Rick Perry defended his decision to make children of illegal immigrants eligible for reduced in-state college tuition and blamed environmental regulations for pushing business overseas at a campaign stop yesterday.

"Accidents happen," Perry said, referring to last year's BP's oil spill that dumped 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. "But if we are going to work on the concept of an accident-free world, then there will be no business in America."

Perry, Texas's governor and a Republican candidate for president, said the United States can't compete economically with China and India if the United States, alone, continues to be held under environmental regulations not in place elsewhere. He called the federal Environmental Protection Agency, with its anti-business regulations, "one of the worst culprits" in forcing business out of the country.

Perry made the remarks at a town-hall event in Hampton yesterday. About 140 people attended the question-and-answer session hosted by the We the People Forum. Perry talked for about an hour - twenty minutes of which he spent answering questions from the audience.

Dave Connors, 67, of Hampton made clear to Perry he disliked his decision to allow children of illegal immigrants to attend Texas colleges on the in-state rate. Nor did he approve of Perry calling his GOP rivals "heartless" when the disagreed.

"I don't understand," Connor told Perry, "why any government . . . would give preferential treatment to a child who does not belong here."

Perry put the blame on the federal government, saying that if federal authorities better secured the border between the United States and Mexico, Texas wouldn't have so many illegal immigrants within its borders. But given the reality, Perry said he and Texas lawmakers decided it made sense to educate those children and get them working - and off the "government dole."

Perry said only four of Texas's 181 lawmakers voted against the measure.

After the event, Connors said he liked the answer well enough to consider voting for Perry. "If I were in a state legislature, and given that (reality), I probably would have supported the law too," Connors said.

Another man asked Perry to explain what science has convinced him global warming is not man-made. Perry cited "scientists who are skeptical" and said the world's temperature has been rising and falling for a millennium. "I don't believe man-made global warming is settled enough to determine a policy that could jeopardize the (country's) future," he said.

A third voter asked Perry if he favored tax breaks or subsidies for businesses. "Subsidies are tax breaks," said Perry, adding that he'd leave decisions like that to state leaders. He focused his answer on energy production and said he'd like to see the United States drilling for its own oil and producing its own natural gas.

"If a state wants to use its resources to encourage industry, so be it," Perry said.

In response to another question, Perry said he favored reducing the number of federal agencies. As governor, he said he saved the state $5.3 billion by reducing 10 state agencies related to health and human services to five. He said he hasn't decided which federal agencies he'd eliminate if elected, but he has serious questions about the need for federal departments of education and energy. "The states should decide education policy and priorities," he said.

Richard Clarey, a retired attorney living in Cambridge, Mass., made the drive to Hampton to ask Perry about how he'd bring business back to the state's empty mill buildings. Clarey grew up in Manchester and said after the event his relatives worked in those mills.

Perry pulled a line from his stump speech to answer Clarey. "Over-litigation, over-taxation and over-regulation have driven so many companies off shore," he said. He said the surest way to get the American economy working again is to better protect business owners from heavy regulations, frivolous lawsuits and high taxes.

(Monitor reporter Ray Duckler contributed to this story. Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323 or at atimmins@cmonitor.com)

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