Morning Must Reads: Tax Benefits For Corporations, Health Care and Prevailing Wage

Toll Bros., the Pennsylvania-based homebuilder that benefited mightily from the housing bubble, also managed to benefit handsomely from you the taxpayer. This morning, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that company profits are down from the previous period in part because the company claimed an eye-popping $59.9 million tax benefit in the 4th quarter of last year.

You can't open the opinion pages without coming across an article from the business lobby claiming businesses need more tax breaks. The fact is these companies got huge breaks that helped boost CEO pay but haven't translated into robust job growth.

Toll attributed the year-over-year profit decline to write-downs on inventory and joint ventures, as well as charges related to retirement of debt.

A $59.9 million tax benefit in the year-ago quarter also had provided a big boost to the builder's income in that period, when the pretax loss was $9.5 million.

Since we are talking about construction, Stephen Herzenberg has an op-ed in the Harrisburg Patriot News on the impact of prevailing wage laws on public construction project costs. The Keystone Research Center also released a briefing paper (PDF) on the benefits of the prevailing wage last month.

The Philadelphia Inquirer this morning discusses the bills moving in the Legislature that would limit oversight of health insurance rate increases. With many insurers facing little competition in their local markets, limiting public oversight over rate increases is giving a near monopoly permission to price gouge. Sharon Ward explains

The Philadelphia Inquirer also has a story on the Career Support Network, a program that aims to help workers get and keep jobs by combining job training with health coaching. Health problems for obvious reasons are a key factor limiting many workers' ability to hold down jobs.

Knowing that, Cornman-Levy jumped at the chance to link the training groups with Jefferson's health education, screening, and treatment.

Jefferson and the centers set up a small screening protocol for people enrolled in the green-jobs program.

They found that nearly 50 percent of the students, mostly African American males, were prediabetic.

'It was alarming,' Cornman-Levy said, 'but I thought, "Wow, we're really onto something." '

That test led the federation and Jefferson to receive a $425,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to set up screening, peer counseling, education, and a host of services aimed at helping these unemployed workers get and keep a job.

So far, contributions have come from the Thomas Scattergood Foundation, the Independence Foundation, the Boeing Foundation, and the Job Opportunity Investment Network, a local network of philanthropic groups focused on workforce development.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a survey commissioned by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools has found that some employers view unfavorably the job higher education overall is doing to prepare students for the workplace.

The group surveyed more than 1,000 employers in various industries last month about whether job applicants possess the skills to thrive in the workplace. More than half of employers said finding qualified applicants is difficult, and just under half thought students should receive specific workplace training rather than a more broad-based education.

I'm not sure what to make of this survey, but for those interested in the dirty details, here are some links to the results:

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