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A Mileage Tax Monitored By Big Brother For All N.J. Drivers? It Could Happen

UNION, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- It's a controversial proposal: Paying for every mile you drive to cover road repairs.

While some say it's necessary, others are saying it's time to put the brakes on the idea, CBS 2's Christine Sloan reported Tuesday.

It's the one thing New Jersey can boast about – having the fourth-lowest gas tax in the nation. The money goes into the state's transportation trust fund, paying for roads and bridges.

But what if you learned the fund is $14.3 billion in debt, and the gas tax just covers a yearly $991 million debt payment?

"The problem there is because previous administrations and legislatures raided the transportation trust fund to use that money in general funds," said Sal Risalvato of the New Jersey Gasoline Convenience Automotive Association.

It's what prompted the bill to repeal the gas tax and have residents pay for every mile they drive, so cars that don't use gasoline or get better mileage pay for roads, too.

"How are you going to track that?" one driver wondered.

It turns out, with a GPS device. The concern was about big brother watching, so after opposition, the sponsor of the legislation this week amended the bill to only tax electric and compressed natural gas-powered car owners with a yearly $50 fee.

"They're using the same roads everyone else is so they should pay the same tax," said Susan Berowitz of Mountainside.

"Why should they be penalized for helping the environment?" added Danielle Morse of Union.

The Sierra Club agrees, with director Jeff Tittel saying, "We try to encourage people to buy fuel-efficient cars but now this is a disincentive."

He said raise the gas tax. But with federal incentives to make fuel-efficient cars, Risalvato said there could be a mileage tax.

"Someday this could be the means," Risalvato said.

Risalvato said some insurance companies are using mileage tracking devices and car manufacturers could build them into cars.

The bill's sponsor, State Sen. Jim Whelan told CBS 2 that while he is for fuel-efficient cars, $50 isn't much money when you can afford to buy a car that cost more than $40,000. Hybrid cars are exempt in his bill. Two other states have vehicle mileage tax laws, Washington and Virginia.

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