ATLANTA, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Governor Nathan Deal said the state of Georgia is "excellent" during his State of the State address Wednesday morning in front of the general assembly.
Deal spoke about jobs, funding education, and his rejection of the Medicad expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which some Middle Georgia lawmakers disagreed with.
Deal plans to increase education funding this year by $574 million. A total of $8 billion of the budget will be dedicated to education.
"My proposal represents the largest single year increase in k-12 funding in seven years," Deal said. "These funds will provide our local school systems with the resources and flexibility to address the most critical needs of their students & teachers."
Deal says the funds will restore instructional days, get rid of teacher furlough days, and give teachers a raise. But State Senator David Lucas says this is just a small step in the right direction, after Georgia has seen major cuts to education over the past several years.
"Why are we talking about $500 million but education had been cut by $5 billion over the last eight years? We're in catch up mode with education because local communities have to foot the bill on the cuts from the state," Luacs said.
Governor Deal says he is prepared to fight against the Medicad expansion. During his speech, he called the Affordable Care Act "anything but affordable."
"Expansion would add 620,000 people to our taxpayer funded health plan, costing us even more," Deal said.
State Representative James Beverly says not taking the expansion will hurt the state in the long run.
"He says it's going to cost the state $327 million, but in 2022 it's going to cost the state $5 billion doses because we didn't," Beverly said.
State Representative Allen Peake agrees with the governor and says we shouldn't rely on federal money.
"I think it's a smart move. I don't think we ought to put ourselves on the hook of depending on the federal government for federal dollars cause who knows when they'll pull that," Peake said.
The governor also told the general assembly he's putting $35 million of the budget toward the deepening of the Port of Savannah, which is a project backed by the federal government.
"We have studied and planned long enough. It's time to start moving dirt!" Deal said.
Governor Deal added his focus on job creation is paying off. During his speech, he said 217,000 new jobs were created over the last three years.
"As a result, out state unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in 5 years," Deal said.
The governor also said Georgia has the lowest tax burden on its citizens, according to the Tax Federation, and he will fight to keep it that way.
During his speech, Governor Deal also said he plans to beef up the HOPE grant scholarships to cover technical colleges.