ATLANTA -

Gov. Nathan Deal says he will propose a $547 million increase in state education spending, calling it the "largest single year increase in K-12 spending in seven years."

Deal delivered his annual State of the State address on Wednesday to lawmakers during a special joint session of the General Assembly on Wednesday.

Deal said state education funding will total nearly $8 billion, allowing schools to restore instructional days, eliminate furloughs and boost teacher pay.

Deal, a Republican up for re-election this year, has faced early criticism from his challengers over the state's education funding in recent years. State Sen. Jason Carter, who's running for governor, is set to deliver the Democratic response to Deal later Wednesday.

In Wednesday's State of the State speech, Deal also:

-Pledged to keep Georgia's tax burden low, saying "we will not allow ourselves to be coerced" into Medicaid expansion.

-Said he intends for dredging to begin this year on the Savannah port deepening project.

-Said the state of Georgia is in "excellent" shape as the result of "hard work and sacrifice.

Deal will also be presenting his budget to a legislative committee later Wednesday.