Sales tax proposed for roads and MARTA in DeKalb

State lawmakers representing DeKalb County discussed their priorities for next year’s legislative session during a DeKalb Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday. From left: Rep. Howard Mosby, Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, Rep. Tom Taylor, Sen.-elect Tonya Anderson, moderator Alexis Scott, Sen. Fran Millar, Rep. Michele Henson, Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick and Rep. Scott Holcomb. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM
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State lawmakers representing DeKalb County discussed their priorities for next year’s legislative session during a DeKalb Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday. From left: Rep. Howard Mosby, Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, Rep. Tom Taylor, Sen.-elect Tonya Anderson, moderator Alexis Scott, Sen. Fran Millar, Rep. Michele Henson, Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick and Rep. Scott Holcomb. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM

Georgia lawmakers will consider raising DeKalb County sales taxes next year to repair crumbling roads and expand MARTA.

State legislators from DeKalb told business leaders Thursday that a special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) will be one of their key local issues when the Georgia General Assembly returns to the Capitol in January.

The sales tax increase — from 7 percent currently to 8 percent — would raise about $110 million a year for infrastructure projects, including repairs of more than 400 miles of pothole-filled roads.

A similar initiative stalled last July because of unclear wording that would have unintentionally triggered a property tax increase.

"It's going to be a priority to fix that language right out of the box," said Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, at the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce 2017 Legislative Preview Breakfast.

If approved by the Georgia General Assembly, voters would then have final say on the sales tax during a referendum next year.

Voters could also be asked whether they want to further raise sales taxes to pay for MARTA projects in DeKalb.

MARTA's expansion could eventually include an eastward expansion of heavy rail along I-20 to Stonecrest, along with the light rail Clifton Corridor line from Lindbergh Center Station to Emory University and Avondale Station.

“We’re going to try to bring that legislation forward and hopefully pass it,” said Rep. Howard Mosby, D-Atlanta.

Besides sales tax increases, lawmakers also discussed the possibility for cities to expand through annexation.

Several legislators said they want to plan cities’ growth across the county rather than approve piecemeal annexations.

"We need a holistic approach … before we continue with annexations and incorporations," said Rep. Michele Henson, D-Stone Mountain.