ABM climbs 'The Hill' on behalf of postal reform

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Several members of American Business Media journeyed to Capitol Hill in early April to express to Congress their concerns about postal reform legislation.

Both the House and Senate have passed postal reform legislation, and conferees are attempting to reconcile the two versions. ABM supports the Senate version, which would make it more difficult for the U.S. Postal Service to make postal increases above the statutory Consumer Price Index cap. Currently, postal rates vary with the level of the USPS' costs, and mailers are pushing for more predictable rates.

"Probably the biggest impact of postal reform legislation on business publishers will be that rates are likely to increase every year by an amount roughly equal to the increase in the CPI rather than by greater amounts every two or three years, as they have in the past several decades," said David Straus, Washington, D.C., counsel for ABM and a partner in the law firm of Thompson Coburn.

ABM agrees with the mailing industry that money for a pension fund for former members of the military who now work for the USPS should be supplied by the Treasury Department rather than the postal service, said Gordon Hughes II, president-CEO of ABM. The Bush administration is opposed to that idea.

ABM also supports the Senate bill's changes to the workers compensation system applicable to postal workers, which is designed to hold down costs by bringing the system in line with the private sector.

It's anybody's guess whether postal reform legislation will pass before this year's congressional session ends. In the meantime, the USPS was expected to file a rate increase request based on its projected costs for the 2008 fiscal year, which begins in October 2007. There were rumblings at the forum that the increase could be at least in the mid-single digits or as high as double digits.

"It's [the postal service's] last shot at getting a big increase, and we're going to fight them on it tooth and nail," Hughes said. "Having said that, the postal service is prepared to offer deep discounts to business publishers if they get out of mailing in sacks and move to deep palletization and co-mingling."

Hughes added that ABM will take pains to educate its members on how to take advantage of the postal discounts, and will create a DVD explaining how the discounts work.

Five separate groups, consisting of ABM members and government affairs executives from business publishers, went to Capitol Hill to express their concerns about postal reform. Hughes said the groups met with, among others, Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Hughes said each group was able to air its concerns, but that he could not gauge how much the meetings will influence the senators' final actions on postal reform.

About two dozen ABM members participated in the Washington Forum.

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