January 23, 2013

Nonprofits Urge Congress to Preserve Discount Postal Rates

Independent Sector and eight other groups asked a powerful Congressional committee Tuesday to preserve discount postage rates for nonprofits as it drafts legislation to change how the U.S. Postal Service works.

The Postal Reform Act of 2011 had proposed eliminating the nonprofit discount, which cost the postal service about $1.3-billion in 2011.  The provision was removed last year during Congressional negotiations, but the comprehensive postal bill died. It is expected to be considered again this year by the new Congress.

Independent Sector's letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, aims to make sure new legislation picks up where last year's measure left off and keeps the discount in place. Mr. Issa was a key player in removing the threat to the discount.

"We have no reason to believe that [Mr. Issa] has changed his position," said Geoffrey Plague, vice president for public policy at Independent Sector. "We wanted to send a friendly reminder of where the discussion had ended at the end of the last Congress."

Mr. Issa's spokesman said no schedule had been set on what steps Congress would take this year on postal issues.

The letter was signed by eight Independent Sector members: American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Easter Seals, Feeding America, League of American Orchestras, Older Women's League, and YMCA of the USA.

The Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, which represents 300 nonprofits on the issue, led the lobbying effort last year against eliminating what amounts to a 26-percent discount on standard mail for nonprofits. The executive director of the alliance, Anthony Conway, said no lawmaker has made any new proposal affecting the discount.

"There’s no threat at this point that I’m aware of," said Mr. Conway.

Nonetheless, Mr. Plague said, nonprofits would rather begin the debate in 2013 with a bill that preserves the discount from the start. Removing a proposal from legislation is a difficult political process and one nonprofits already successfully waged last year.

"Getting something out is infinitely harder than keeping something in," Mr. Plague said.