National Newspaper Association Supports Progress on Postal Reform
National Newspaper Association President Chip Hutcheson, publisher of The Times-Leader in Princeton, KY, this week expressed cautious optimism that introduction of a new postal reform bill in the House of Representatives would lead to a final legislation this year.
A “discussion draft” of a bill supported by a bipartisan group on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was released June 15. The bill would provide financial relief for the stressed U.S. Postal Service by requiring some retirees to use an already-funded Medicare benefit instead of USPS’s own plan. USPS has built up nearly $70 billion in debt on its balance sheet because of its inability to make an annual $5 billion prepayment for its own plan to the federal government. The bipartisan bill would dramatically reduce or eliminate the need for that annual payment by integrating Medicare into the postal retiree package.
The bill also contemplates other changes. Among them would be a one-time increase of postage rates by 2.1 percent, likely to be implemented in late 2016. It would also require classes of mail that are not currently covering costs to pay an additional 2 percent annual increase until USPS covers at least 90 percent of the cost of that mail. Periodicals mail users are among the postal customers that would be required to pay that increase.
Hutcheson said NNA is still analyzing the complex legislation but that its primary goal is to avoid further cuts in postal service.
“It would be difficult for us to support a postage increase, but if we had the assurance that further massive closing of mail processing plants would be averted by a modest increase, our board would be looking very seriously at that deal. We must stop the loss of our subscribers who are disappointed in mail service,” he said. “However, I want to emphasize that discussion of this legislation is not over. NNA will be actively involved in shaping the final bill. We want to thank the primary bill sponsors, including Chair Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Minority Elijah Cummings for their hard work in taking the process this far.”
The primary sponsors will be Chaffetz, R-UT; Cummings, D-MD; Reps. Mark Meadows, R-NC; Gerry Connolly, D-VA and Stephen Lynch, D-MA. The full text of the pending bill will be available at https://oversight.house.gov.
NNA will provide more detail on the proposed bill in the next Publishers’ Auxiliary.