Mailers Make Late Push for Postal Reform

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Some mailing association executives still hold out hope that legislation to revamp the U.S. Postal Service will pass this session.


Part of the reason for the optimism is extra time. Congress changed its targeted adjournment from Oct. 1 to Oct. 8. Also, insiders said a lame-duck session probably would begin a week or so after the election. Congress then hopes to leave before Thanksgiving, but could stay on until Christmas.


In addition, the Senate and House committees that oversee the USPS -- chaired by Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, and Rep. Tom Davis, R-VA -- are determined to pass reform.


"House chairman Davis is really pushing very, very hard right now to get his bill onto the floor of the House for a vote," said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president, government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association. "In addition, we know from talking with Senator Collins' staff that she still has a huge interest in getting a reform bill despite the fact that her committee is tied up with the 9/11 commission."


But roadblocks remain. Even if the legislation passes, it must be signed by President Bush, and "we've heard rumors that the administration does not support the reform bill, but we have not heard why," Cerasale said.


Reportedly, the Bush administration told Davis that it would strongly oppose his bill because it does not provide enough reform to justify the budget cost.


Reform bills have passed congressional committees and await floor votes in the House and Senate.


The legislation would repeal a provision requiring that money owed to the USPS because of an overpayment into the Civil Service Retirement System fund be held in an escrow account. Repealing this provision would free up $78 billion over 60 years, letting the postal service pay off debt to the U.S. Treasury, fund its healthcare liabilities and mitigate rate increases.


If that money isn't released, the postal service has said it will seek a double-digit rate increase for 2006. The USPS is expected to file a rate case in spring 2005, and rates could rise in early 2006.


The bills also would return responsibility for funding CSRS pension benefits related to the military service of postal retirees -- a $27 billion obligation -- to the Treasury Department. No other federal agency has to make this payment.


Gene del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, posted a memo in September on its Web site, www.postcom.org, with a letter it suggests PostCom members send to Congress.


In the memo, the association says: "We're getting to crunch time. Congress is about to break for the elections. A lame-duck session will follow, and you need to send your members of Congress a very simple message about the upcoming rate case."


PostCom members are asked to send a letter to their representatives that says: "Unless Congress acts soon, the U.S. Postal Service will be compelled to file for a postal rate increase that will be far larger than necessary. The double-digit rate increases that will result will have a substantially adverse effect on my business and on the people my company currently employs. I need you to get involved in this matter before a catastrophe occurs. Here's what I'm asking you to do. Please contact the chairman and the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform (Mr. Davis, R-VA, and Mr. [Henry] Waxman, D-CA). Tell them you need them to act quickly to spare businesses such as mine a truly punishing postal rate increase."


It also offers a similar form letter that members can send to their senators.


The Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, Washington, also posted a page on its site, www.nonprofitmailers.org/septwish.htm, that offers information about postal reform and materials to help members communicate with Congress, including tips.


DMA president/CEO John A. Greco Jr. sent an e-mail to members Sept. 24 updating them on the status of reform legislation. DMA members were urged to ask their elected representatives to become engaged in postal reform.


To facilitate this, Greco said the DMA established a political action Web site, the-dma.org/politicalaction, where members can write and send e-mails or faxes to elected officials. Greco said the DMA also urged members to consider taking steps, including:


· Schedule meetings with your representative and/or senators in their hometown offices.


· Attend and host, if possible, meetings, community events and/or fundraisers where your representative and/or senators are scheduled to appear.


· Schedule plant/facility tours for your representative and/or senators.


· Engage colleagues from similar businesses and/or vendors to participate in this effort.


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