In an exclusive interview with Direct Marketing News, Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman expressed a firm belief that postal reform can be enacted by Congress in the coming months and that a 4.3% exigent rate increase can be averted. Extraordinary forces are aligning in the turbulent 113th Congress, noted the Capitol Hill veteran, that favor quick passage of postal reform
“You’ve got the chairman and the ranking member of both [postal] authorizing committees saying that they want reform and they want it now. You have the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader saying they want reform this year,” said Stroman, who once served as a staff director on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee that recently introduced a new postal reform bill. “That’s the first time that’s happened over the last two years. You’ve got a level of bipartisanship that is hard to come by in Washington these days.”
Stroman said the postal governors’ hands were forced on the exigent increase in the absence of legislation that would remove the Postal Service’s debilitating obligation to pre-fund retirees’ healthcare. “When you look at the statement made by the board in requesting the increase,” Stroman said, “what they signaled is that, if legislation got enacted by the end of the year, they would reconsider an exigent case going forward.”
The DPMG, who votes in Postal Board of Governor meetings on most everything but pricing issues, said that the governors looked long and hard at how an increase would affect mail volumes in arriving at the 4.3% figure. “They are certainly aware that their customers are not happy about this, but they felt they had no choice,” Stroman said.
Stroman’s assessment is that postal reform transcends bipartisan parrying because a failed postal service will adversely affect industry and employment in the states and districts of all members of Congress. “Members know that most jobs are not federal government jobs. They know that they’re being created in the private sector, and that includes every member’s constituents,” he said. “Look, members want an economy that’s growing and moving forward and part of that is a vibrant and healthy postal service.”
Stroman urged mailers to assume a larger role in educating their congressional representatives about how an exigent increase would affect their businesses and local economies back home.
“Educating your members about the importance of postal reform is the most important thing mailers can do to help reform get done,” Stroman said. “When I worked in the Congress, if a member received 20 letters or emails on an issue, that issue became important to that particular member. Postal reform is complicated, and a lot of the members could use education on how important this is to businesses and to jobs in this country.”
Stroman acknowledged that the road to reform is a hard and short one. The exigent increase, if approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, is scheduled to go into effect on January 27. If mailers are to have their voices heard in time, he said, the time to start shouting is now.
“It’s difficult to get any piece of legislation enacted, so you have to say getting this legislation passed will encounter problems going forward,” Stroman said. “But I don’t think they’re insurmountable. There’s tremendous interest for getting it done. We were in one senator’s office yesterday who said, ‘Look, postal is one of the issues on our list of things to do.’”