Governor Nathan Deal outlined his top priorities at the State Capitol on Thursday, delivering the State of the State address to the General Assembly.
Deal's remarks come as Georgia continues to face a weak economic recovery. His new budget calls for additional spending cuts, but the speech also focused on new initiatives, including plans to restore the state's pre-K program to 180 days and add money for the HOPE Scholarship program.
"Today, I am happy to say that my budget will increase the HOPE Scholarship by 3 percent over last year, bringing the total funds going to HOPE in fiscal year 2014 to nearly $600 million," said Deal.
Democratic leaders applauded the increases for pre-K and HOPE, but warned continued of dangers from continued budget cutbacks.
"There is a cost for being such a low-tax state and there's a cost for cutting so many jobs. But more than that, there's a cost to the citizens of Georgia," said Minority Leader Rep. Stacey Abrams.
The governor also called for additional reforms to the state's juvenile justice system and stricter drunken driving laws for boaters.
"If you are too drunk to drive an automobile, you are too drunk to drive a boat," Deal said.
Gov. Deal concluded his speech with a call for lawmakers to consider new ethics requirements for themselves and other state and local officials.
Later Thursday, the state Senate approved a plan to shore up the state's Medicaid program. That bill will now go to the state House.