MARTA expansion bill advances in Senate

A bill that would let voters in DeKalb and Fulton decide whether to pay up to an additional half-percent sales tax for MARTA took a step forward in the state Senate on Thursday.

The Senate Transportation Committee approved Senate Bill 330 by a vote of 8-3 with a few amendments designed to appease mayors in Fulton County.

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A MARTA train at North Springs station on Georgia 400, the northernmost stop on the system's Red Line. Credit Curtis Compton/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

The amendments changed wording of the proposed referendum within the bill so that it refers to "transit" instead of rail, to allow for the possibility of enhanced bus service instead of a rail expansion.

The language of the bill was also changed so that it allows for up to a half-percent sales tax for MARTA, as opposed to stating the sales tax increase could only be a half-percent.

Another change to the original version of the bill allows cities to have input on the project list, which is to be drafted prior to the vote. If the legislation is passed and approved by elected officials in the affected counties, residents could vote on the proposed sales tax increase in the November general election of 2016 or 2017.

The average resident would pay an extra $51 annually in sales taxes if an additional half-percent sales tax were imposed, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has previously reported.

The next step is for the Rules Committee to schedule a floor vote in the Senate. The vote would have to take place before March 1 (Crossover Day) if it is to survive and be voted on in the House.

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