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U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is in the political doghouse of Wisconsin's largest industry.
At issue are Johnson's Tea Party rhetoric and committee votes on postal reform legislation. Postal votes are a vital issue for the multi-faceted mailing industry, which accounts for more than $26 billion in annual economic activity and employs more than 180,000 Wisconsin residents.
The industry warns that ever-increasing mail rates will become a disincentive that will lead to companies finding other ways to communicate with their customers. The industry had supported an amendment advanced by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) that would have retained the existing power of the Postal Regulatory Commission and kept the latest increase as a "temporary" measure.
Johnson criticized the Baldwin amendment at a session of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, saying higher rates "could put jobs at risk," but added, "My job is to protect the American taxpayer."
Wisconsin's mailing and publishing industry quickly issued a sharp rebuke to Johnson. It issued a public letter signed by top paper and mailing industry executives and officials at 52 newspapers. It noted the mailing industry provides about 90 percent of Postal Service revenue.
"We are confused by your taxpayer statement, considering the fact the Postal Service is funded solely by revenue from postage, most of it paid by mailing customers like us. No taxpayer dollars are used to fund the postal service," the industry letter said. "The real threat to the American taxpayer is allowing the Postal Service to price mailing out of the market, causing steep declines in mail volume that will further destabilize the Postal Service financially and lead to a taxpayer bailout."
Joel Quadracci, chief executive officer of the printing-industry giant Quad/Graphics Inc. in Sussex, said the industry was "disappointed" in the committee's actions.
(This column was excerpted with permission from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association's State Capitol Newsletter, a weekly column written by correspondent Matt Pommer.)
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