Postal & ad issues top NNA summit priorities

February 4, 2014

Joining other publishers to fight back against advertising tax proposals and new competitive threats from the U.S. Postal Service should be at the top of the new year’s priorities, said National Newspaper Association President Robert M. Williams, Jr. publisher of the Blackshear (GA) Times.

As the 113th Congress heads to the polls in a divided nation, the temptation to find easy, but wrong, solutions grows, Williams said. He urged publishers to join NNA in Washington on March 13 to take community newspapers’ concerns to Congress.

Top on the concern list is a proposal by outgoing Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT, to increase federal taxes by limiting advertising expense deductibility.

“There is no federal sales tax on services. But by canceling out businesses’ ability to deduct their advertising costs as ordinary business expenses, Congress could cut the heart of the local economies just as much as if it were a direct levy,” Williams said.

“As our economy becomes more service-based, policymakers are looking for ways to tax services. Advertising is a tempting target for those looking for more money for the federal government to spend. But it is the best example of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. And it particularly harms our local advertisers—the bricks and mortar shops that were facing big box competitors yesterday and digital giants like Amazon today. These mom-and-pop shops that underpin our towns’ economies and civic involvement have to advertise to keep going. When Uncle Sam wants to make that even harder, he threatens our communities,” he said.

Next on Williams’s list of congressional bad ideas are proposals to let the $60 billion Postal Service monopoly have more latitude to raise prices and offer special discounts to favored mailers—both plans aimed at newspapers that USPS considers its competitors.

In the House, Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa, R-CA, has been unable to move a postal reform bill to a floor vote. Significant opposition to ending Saturday mail has been expressed in House Resolution 30 by Reps. Sam Graves, R-MO, and Gerald Connolly, D-VA, which has 206 co-sponsors. Issa would create a new governing body for USPS that could decide on more special discounts for favored mailers, like the negotiated service discounts provided in 2012 to Valassis Inc.

In the Senate, S. 1486 would allow USPS wide latitude over prices, significantly weakening the Postal Regulatory Commission.

 

Other news

Saturday mail delivery remains a federal mandate under the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill adopted by Congress in January to fund the federal government through Fiscal Year 2014, which ends Sept. 30. The annual appropriations rider has been in federal law since 1983, over the objection of the U.S. Postal Service. Enactment of a postal reform bill could override the appropriations mandate.

A rate configuration problem in the Jan. 26 postage rates for publishers using Full Service Intelligent Mail barcodes may cause some rates to calculate incorrectly. Specifically, the pounds on form 3541 Lines A1 and A2 when containers having both in- and out-of-county pieces are in the mailing were inaccurately coded in USPS software. USPS has assured that repairs will be made, but publishers suspecting that they have too-high rates in those rate cells may request a refund from local clerks.

 

NNAF News Fellows

The National Newspaper Association Foundation has received an invitation from the National Security Agency for its 2014 News Fellows to visit the agency compound for a briefing. The fellows will research the topic of government surveillance and produce stories for a local newspaper. NNAF President Elizabeth Parker said two to three seats in this year’s News Fellows program remain on a first-come, first-served basis. Support for this year’s News Fellows program is being provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, sponsoring state press associations and NNA.

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