By the National Newspaper Association

The National Newspaper Association continues a multi-front attack against unfair postage rate increases with litigation at the Postal Regulatory Commission and strong grassroots work on Capitol Hill.

NNA has joined the Affordable Mail Alliance at the Postal Regulatory Commission to object to the planned exigency postage increase proposed for January.

NNA and others are arguing that the U.S. Postal Service has overstated the amount of its financial losses created by the Great Recession.

On Capitol Hill, NNA opposes proposals by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, to hand over authority to the Postal Service to set rates and to change service levels without pre-review by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Coburn’s proposals are included in the Postal Reform Act of 2013, jointly proposed by Coburn and Sen. Thomas Carper, D-DE, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

NNA believes handing unfettered authority over the government monopoly’s services and rates to the Postal Service Board of Governors would result in higher rates for periodicals and more attempts at promoting selected direct mail products over newspaper advertising.

“NNA has an obligation to the industry and our communities to help cure the ills of the Postal Service in ways that do not dilute service or drive more mailers out of the system,” said NNA President Robert M. Williams Jr. “Both of those results would end up in a massive taxpayer bailout of the Postal Service in the future because mail volume will fall off even more sharply than it is today.

“We understand that new legislation is needed and that we will not always get what we want,” Williams said. “But we have our sights trained on solutions that do not further diminish service, particularly in rural America. And we need a fair playing field for newspapers.”

Williams has asked members of NNA’s Congressional Action Team, operating under the leadership of Chairwoman Deb McCaslin of Nebraska, to call their senators on the Homeland Security committee, which will be writing the legislation.

“We need to keep the Postal Regulatory Commission in a proper regulatory role and continue to work for laws that create meaningful cost controls for the Postal Service,” he said. “Our board in September reaffirmed our partnership with the Affordable Mail Alliance as well. We are working in a very strong coalition to litigate on the proposed rates.”

Max Heath, NNA’s Postal Committee chairman, has produced estimates on the impact of the proposed postal rates for newspapers. As always, the average proposed rate hits some newspapers harder than others.

“We believe some rates will fall in the 8 percent to 9 percent range,” Heath said. “I have cautioned our members that these rates are proposed and not final.”

The Postal Regulatory Commission still has to speak, he said.

Heath believes NNA has a strong case to reduce the proposed increase and hopes to end the litigation closer to the legal increase within the rate of inflation.

McCaslin noted support for NNA’s position from Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, one of the authors of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, where the inflation-based price cap was created.

Collins has written the Postal Regulatory Commission that Congress never intended for the legal exigency or emergency rate authority to be used as the Postal Service proposes.

Collins said she believed the exigency power was to be used “sparingly … only if terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other events cause significant and substantial declines in mail volume.”

She said the Postal Regulatory Commission’s approval of the higher rates could be inconsistent with the law.