The postal reform process got another push forward when Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced bipartisan legislation recently. This bill has several similarities as well as some significant differences from the bill passed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on a party-line vote in July. The Senate bill was introduced just as lawmakers were leaving town for their August break, so action on the bill is not expected until next month at the earliest.
Right now it’s all about the process, and having comprehensive bills in both chambers with the backing of postal oversight committee leaders is a necessary first step. As we will discuss below, the Senate bill has elements we support and sections that cause us more than a little concern. However, as both postal reform bills move through their respective chambers, and likely on to a conference committee to work out differences between the two chambers, there will be vigorous debate. And many aspects of the bills are likely to be adjusted.
As Sen. Coburn noted when this bill was introduced, “This proposal is a rough draft of an agreement subject to change that I hope will move us closer to a solution that will protect taxpayers and ensure the Postal Service can remain economically viable while providing vital services to the American people.”
We shared our priorities regarding the content of postal reform legislation at the end of last month. The Senate bill addresses several of those priorities, including requiring the Office of Personnel Management to use data more accurately reflecting USPS projected liabilities when calculating payments into the Postal Service’s two pension systems, eliminating statutory retiree health pre-funding and replacing it with a less aggressive 40-year amortization, and reforming workers’ compensation rules. We do, however, have major concerns with two aspects of this bill:
Concern 1: Removing the Inflation-Based Price Cap
Of greatest concern to us is that the Senate bill phases out the inflation-based price cap. We should not be abandoning a rate setting methodology that has incented the Postal Service to improve the efficiency of its networks and processes, making it a stronger and more financially stable organization. Allowing postage rates to rise faster than inflation will only drive additional volume out of the postal system and damage the $1.3 trillion mailing industry and the 8.4 million jobs it provides.
Concern 2: Delayed Adjustments to the Postal Processing Network
We are also concerned that this bill would delay necessary adjustments needed to right-size the postal processing network to align with current and future mail volume and prolong the transition to a 5-day mail/ 6-day package delivery schedule. These adjustments are inevitable and will significantly cut costs and excess capacity.
We are also concerned that providing the tools needed to build a financially stable Postal Service is not a higher priority for the 113th Congress. It is disheartening that it has taken this long to get to this point in moving postal reform forward. Now we are facing a month-long congressional recess, and there are fewer than 40 business days on the congressional calendar between now and the end of the year. It’s time to get the job done to provide the Postal Service the tools it needs to continue providing delivery and communication services well into the future.
Why not take advantage of the August recess to connect with your Senators and Representatives while they are at home to remind them of the importance of the U.S. Postal Service to our nation’s economy and how many jobs in your company are dependent on a financially viable Postal Service? (To determine the number of mailing industry jobs in your state or district, check out the Envelope Manufacturers Association 2012 Mailing Industry Jobs Study.)
Let’s make this happen in 2013!
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