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A State in Economic Peril

Our Point of ViewThe proposed merger of Lucent Technologies and France’s Alcatel—and the new round of job cuts in New Jersey that it portends— are the latest danger signal for the state’s economy. News of the deal was followed by fresh reports of slowing job gains in high-wage business sectors.

Worsening New Jersey’s plight is the need to balance the state’s deficit-ridden budget. Polls last week found strong opposition to Gov. Jon Corzine’s plan to raise the sales tax from 6% to 7%—hardly a finding to stiffen the spines of nervous lawmakers.

New Jersey thus faces a double dilemma: It must simultaneously attract jobs and clean up its budget mess, but any tax hikes or service cuts threaten to make the state a less inviting place to do business.

The solution to this riddle lies in focusing the full resources of the state on job creation. Corzine took a good first step by appointing an economic development czar to oversee state initiatives. The new chief, Gary Rose, should start by putting real muscle behind efforts to form partnerships between universities and high-tech companies. Such alliances have paid off handsomely in places like Boston, San Diego and North Carolina’s Research Triangle, and promoting them should become a top priority here.

New Jersey recently adopted the tourist-luring slogan, “Come See for Yourself.” It should add another one to attract business that declares: “Come Here to Grow and Create Jobs.”

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