Sunday, February 10, 2008

Going Postal

Yesterday afternoon, my wife returned from our mailbox with not one, not two, but three envelopes bearing State Senator Phil Bartlett's name. And all the envelopes contained not three, not two, but only one type of mailing. In other words, all three envelopes had the same reminder for the state's Circuit Breaker program and instructions for how to apply.

That we received three mailings of the same contents should not come as a surprise, however. According to a Press Herald story from December that I'm unable and unwilling to link (the paper's site seems to be down this morning and it charges a $2.00 fee for its archived stories), the Maine Senate spent $103,315 in postal fees through the first eleven months of 2007. This amount was up 69 percent from 2006 and up 224 percent from 2003. The Maine House was less profligate with postage fees and spent $58,589 during the first eleven months of last year. That the Maine Senate, a body composed of only thirty-five members, spent about twice as much on postage as the Maine House--a body composed of 151 members--is, I think, astounding.

The logic of the mass mailings is understandable (they're potentially a great way to inform your constituents). And in the grand scheme of the State of Maine budget, $190,000 isn't a large sum of money. Nevertheless, considering the proliferation of electronic media (websites, e-mail, etc.), it seems to me that the rate of spending on legislative mail should be going down, even when you do account for the recent increases in postage fees.

It should certainly not be going up by 69 percent in one year and by 224 percent in four.

- John C.L. Morgan

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