FREEHOLD BOROUGH — Monmouth County officials are looking out for any price gouging at the pump in the three weeks before the state's 23-cent-per-gallon gas tax takes effect.

“While gas station owners are respectable business people, I want the public to know we are carefully monitoring gas station prices leading up to Nov. 1," Freeholder Deputy Director Serena DiMaso, liaison to the county Division of Weights and Measures, said in a statement. "While inspections occur throughout the year, we believe it is particularly important at this time to ensure the motoring public is being treated fairly at the pump."

Prices in New Jersey have been stable over the past week, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, which said the average price of a gallon of regular gas in the state on Friday was $2.02, the same price as the previous week. That's also roughly the same price from a year ago, when motorists were paying $1.99.

Tom Kloza, of the Oil Price Information Service, expects retailers to increase their prices by 20-23 cents on Nov. 1, but otherwise prices will stay stable. He said two refineries are down, making for a flat wholesale market. Plus, OPEC will not meet until the end of November to discuss their proposed reduction in output, according to Kloza.

DiMaso said anyone who sees or suspects an unusual increase at the gas pump should call Monmouth County's Weights and Measures office at 732-431-7362 and a representative will be dispatched immediately to inspect the allegation.

Gov. Chris Christie signed the gas tax into law on Friday. It takes New Jersey from having the nation's second lowest gas tax at 14.5 cents to the seventh highest at 37.5 cents. The sales tax will also be reduced by three-eighths of a percent by 2018. Income taxes would be reduced for most retirees, the working poor and veterans as part of the deal.

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