DALLAS An online petition calling for Texas to secede from the United States is gaining support. More than 80,000 people have signed the petition since it was uploaded to the White House's website Friday by an Arlington man.

Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, the petition reads, it is practically feasible for Texas to withdraw from the Union.

The petition sparked intense reaction online and triggered a response from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who hinted in 2009 that Texas could seek independence. On Tuesday, he backed off the idea of secession.

People are free to do whatever people want to do, Perry said at a news conference in Austin. We ve got a great country.

Yet he also offered a warning to other states.

California needs to be a stronger state, he continued, adding he ll be meeting soon with other Republican governors. I never pass up an opportunity to challenge them to catch up with Texas on the job creation front and also give them fair warning: I m going to be coming into their state and asking businesses to relocate into the State of Texas.

The president has not yet commented on the petition, and may not.

Talk of secession fuels an independence streak that has run deep in Texas since its founding as a separate country.

Secessionists like Larry Kilgore have repeatedly run for office and at times gotten hundreds of thousands of votes.Groups like the Texas Nationalist Movement have been calling for independence for years.

I think the individual and state has more power than the federal government likes to give it credit for, said Bob Smiley, a Los Angeles-based author who wrote Don t Mess with Travis, a novel about secession.

I would applaud Texas if it gave it a shot.

Supporters insist Texas could strike on its own; that it has enough money, natural resources and people.Yet critics say even if it was legally possible, it s not practical. The state relies on billions to pay for basics ranging from its hospitals to its roads.

As recently as 2005 Texas did indeed send Washington more in tax dollars than it has gotten back.

The state s residents got back 94 cents for every dollar sent to the federal treasury.Yet in recent years, analysts say that s now reversed. A shaky economy, surge in military spending and a spike in the state s poverty has created a surge of entitlement spending. Texas now receives more than it sends to the IRS.

I think the attitude in a lot of the rest of the country now is let them go and don t let the door hit them on the way, said Bud Kennedy, a columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.He worries the talk might actually be damaging the reputation among the state s conservatives.

This is most dangerous for the Republican party, he said. This is not a time when Republicans need to look more extreme; that didn t work.

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