Insiders who have long fought the postal rate wars feel that the Postal Regulatory Commission’s eight-month extension of the exigent surcharge will inevitably lead to its demise. There’s no discernible inclination on the part of the PRC to do otherwise, they say, and the Postal Service is exhibiting new signs of life. Only an act of Congress can grant the USPS’s wish of exigency forever, and the odds of action on such legislation in the next two years are slim to none.
“[Senator Tom] Carper had indicated a willingness to do that, but Congress isn’t really doing anything right now. They’re kicking all cans down the road,” says Hamilton Davison, president and executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association. “Once the 2016 elections get into full swing after the summer recess, they’re going to have to start making decisions, and there are a lot higher priorities outside of postal reform.”
Gene Del Polito, a seasoned observer of the Washington scene after three decades heading the Association for Postal Commerce, is betting on apathy for exigency. “Unless the Postal Service is at death’s door—and actually they’ve been doing better save for the prefunding issue—their situation is not desperate enough for Congress to do something in an election year,” he says. “I can’t see a Republican Congress doing anything to mollify the unions, and the Democrats haven’t got the muscle to get [a reform bill] done.”
As for mailers, exigency has become business as usual. Their budgets have been recalculated for the surcharge and they are prepared to muddle through another eight months. “Our members were expecting it,” Davison says. “We had forecast that we’d be looking at another six to eight months of exigency.”
Now, minus some extraordinary development, mailers will be waiting out the final days of the 4.3% surcharge. “They’ve been living with it for more than a year. Whatever happened with their businesses has happened. It’s not going to have any significantly greater impact than it already has,” says Del Polito.
Still, neither association executive is willing to breathe a sigh of relief. Nor is D. Eadward Tree, the nom de plume of a publishing executive, who wrote today in his Dead Tree Edition blog that “the surcharge is slated to expire somewhere around April 2016 instead of August 2015. But remember that, in Washington, ‘temporary’ taxes tend to become permanent.”