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2012 Legislative Agenda : USPS, Elections Force Hands

January 2012 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor

The calendar says 2012, and one thing is certain. When it comes to the legislative agenda in a presidential election year, 'tis best to strike while the iron is hot. And that iron cools off considerably once school lets out.

When the weather heats up, silly season begins in Washington. DC. All attention will turn to the November elections, and it says here that nothing will get done in Congress. That's hardly a bold prognostication; historically, except for any must-pass legislation needed to keep the government running, Congress hangs its "out to lunch" shingle (insert joke here) around mid-year to focus on elections.

The printing industry agenda, one might think, would presumably suffer from a reduced legislative term, due to a lack of high-priority issues on its to-do list. But, that is not the case in 2012. Three of the four issues of most interest to Printing Industries of America (PIA) and its lobby—health care, taxes and regulatory—are industry agnostic and impact most Americans. And, while postal reform could impact thousands of workers and the nation's mail system, it is mostly driven by the mailing community.

Lisbeth Lyons, vice president of Government Affairs at PIA, provides perspective on her lobbying efforts, as well as insight into what talking points Congressional members are weighing as they try to tackle some big-ticket items before election season.

Postal Service Reform

Mr. ZIP has taken matters into his own hands with a national PR agenda that has raised visibility to unprecedented levels. At no time in history has the plight of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) garnered more national attention than it has over the past 12 months. The New York Times, Washington Post, Time magazine and countless other publications have documented the decline of this American institution, and its inability to operate profitably.

The USPS posted a $5.1 billion loss for its 2011 fiscal year, a figure that would have eclipsed $10 billion had Congress not postponed its crippling $5.5 billion payment to pre-fund retiree health benefits. Mail volume dropped by 3 billion pieces over the previous year and profitability from First-Class Mail dipped 5.8 percent.

The House and Senate have been kicking around legislative relief efforts, each taking vastly different roads to the same destination, while the tide of red ink continues to engulf the Postal Service. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and his staff determined it must reduce operating costs $20 billion by 2015 in order to become profitable again.

 

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