Reagan cost cutters take snip at printing costs

Government budget cutters say they have found a way to cut at least $30 million from the cost of printing the blizzard of paper the federal bureaucracy disgorges every year.

The Reagan administration says it will close or drastically scale down operations at 130 of roughly 1,000 printing and duplicating facilities run by various federal departments and agencies by September 1984, when the current fiscal year ends.

''We are saying 'let's go after the source' '' of government forms and publications, says Joseph R. Wright, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Previously the OMB had gone after the publications themselves, targeting 2,300 for elimination, among them such titles as ''How to Buy a Christmas Tree.''

The $30 million savings figure represents the difference between having material printed in government facilities and the lower cost if the work is farmed out to private firms. The OMB says the savings could rise to $50 million as more plants are shuttered in coming years.

''The majority of (each agency's) presses are being operated at around one-third of capacity and are producing routine printing work at a cost of more than three times that charged by commercial printers,'' says Public Printer Danford L. Sawyer Jr.

In one extreme case, it cost an unidentified federal agency $64.09 for every 1,000 pages it printed in-house, while the work could be performed at a Government Printing Office facility for $8.81. The GPO, Uncle Sam's main printer , will not be affected by the cutbacks.

While the savings are sizeable, they represent only a tiny fraction of the government's estimated $1.4 billion annual bill for in-agency printing.

After transfers and retirements, some 550 federal employees risk losing their jobs as a result of the cutbacks. The Printing Industries of America, an industry trade group, has offered to help find jobs for the displaced workers. ''We are an industry facing a severe skill shortage,'' says Benjamin Y. Cooper, senior vice-president of the PIA.

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