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More Postal Reform is Necessary for Industry

July 2003
By Lucie Naphin

WASHINGTON, DC—In my role as government relations director for RR Donnelley, I have spent the past several months traveling back and forth to Capitol Hill, advocating on behalf of our customers in an effort to pass legislation through Congress that would allow the United States Postal Service (USPS) to recoup funds it overpaid to its Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

This legislation is critically important to our customers' businesses; with the passing of the Postal Civil Service Retirement System Funding Reform Act of 2003, the USPS will save an estimated $2.9 billion in 2003 and $2.8 billion in 2004.

Had the USPS not been able to access the surplus funds, it would likely have already filed its next rate case on April 1, 2003. However, with the passing of the reform act, the Postal Service has promised to delay its next rate increase until the year 2006.

In addition to providing the industry with an unprecedented ability to forecast future postage expenses, the resulting averted expenses could serve as just the shot in the arm that the mailing industry needs to get business back on track.

The passing of this bill represents a huge victory for mailers everywhere, and is one from which we can draw a lesson with immediate implications.

The mailing industry has pulled together to speak as one voice on this issue like never before. Countless trade organizations, labor unions and private industry rallied their members to write or otherwise reach out to their legislators in support of this legislation.

One of the best examples of this was the Mailing Industry CEO Council. This group, which is composed of 18 CEOs from across the mailing industry, including RR Donnelley, lobbied Congress relentlessly over the past several months to make sure that the economic benefit of rate stability was heard and fully understood.

In addition to the CEO Council, we saw massive support of the industry-wide lobbying effort from the Direct Marketing Association, the Mailers Council, the Alliance for Non-Profit Mailers, the Parcel Shippers Association, the National Association of Letter Carriers, as well as many others.

When I spoke with John Campanelli, president of RR Donnelley Logistics, about the victory, he expressed gratitude for the support of the mailing industry. But he also expressed a cautionary note that we keep our collective "eye on the ball," and try to keep the momentum going.

Passing the 2003 reform act is a tremendous victory for the mailing industry, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Comprehensive postal reform is still a massive issue for the mailing industry. The President's Commission on the USPS is currently hearing testimony from many dedicated industry players on the issue and, come August, it will put forth its recommendations for the changes necessary to safely take the USPS into the next century.

These recommendations will likely result in—you guessed it—more legislation focused on comprehensive postal reform. This legislation will be paramount to the continued financial viability of the USPS and the mailing industry at large.

So, I'd like to leave you with a friendly challenge. Passing the Postal Civil Service Retirement System Funding Reform Act of 2003 is a clear demonstration of the powerful role that lobbying can play. The mailing industry must learn from the experience of passing CSRS legislation and leverage this knowledge to ensure that the recommendations of the President's Commission pass through Congress as quickly as possible.

While passing CSRS legislation was difficult, passing a comprehensive reform package will be even harder. The entire industry must act together to move the legislation through. I challenge you to make it so.

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