Senators want substantial changes to Postal Service
By McClatchy Newspapers
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 8:30 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Senators are urgently trying to save the struggling Postal Service after its announcement that it will cut Saturday delivery starting in August.
In a hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, senators and post office advocates agreed on the importance of immediate congressional changes to the Postal Service's operations, though there was no agreement on the specifics of how to do so.
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe urged Congress to allow the agency to form its own health-care plan and not restrict the agency in its move to a five-day delivery week. A new system in which the Postal Service managed its own health care for employees and switched to a new business model could save up to $7 billion by 2016, he said.
If Congress doesn't act soon and the Postal Service doesn't change its business model, it could require a taxpayer bailout that could total more than $45 billion by 2017.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, introduced legislation that would repeal the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, under which the Postal Service prefunds 75 years of benefits for retirees in 10 years.
The retiree health benefits have crippled the Postal Service and cost the agency $11.1 billion in the past year. The Postal Service estimates that 20 cents of every dollar in revenue go to health-care costs.
Repealing the prefunding mandate on retirement benefits is one part of the Postal Service's problem, Donahoe said. He said the agency can't function with Congress' restrictions on five-day delivery and must move to a changed business environment.
Robert Rapoza, president of the National Association of Postmasters of the United States, said changes should come in innovation and expansion in services as well as flexible pricing.
Senators charged that Donahoe acted illegally when he cut Saturday delivery. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said making any legislation is irrelevant if the Postal Service doesn't follow it.
“Apparently, you believe you have the legal authority, despite what Congress said, to cancel the sixth day,” Levin said. “There needs to be congressional oversight.”
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 states that six-day delivery and rural delivery must occur at the same rate they did in 1983, and senators said this means the Postal Service acted illegally.
Jeanette Dwyer, president of the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, agreed in testimony that the cut in delivery is against the law and said her union alone would lose about 20,000 jobs with no Saturday service, which would amount to losses much greater than the 22,500 jobs Donahoe estimated would be lost across the whole Postal Service.
There are discrepancies between several of the job-loss statistics given by Donahoe, said Jennifer Warburton, director of legislative and political affairs at the National Association of Letter Carriers. She said more clarification is needed to take further steps in legislation.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., argued that the new five-day week works fine for those in urban areas, but that some of his rural constituents — many of whom do not have broadband Internet access — will suffer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Geminid meteor shower takes the stage
- FDA to curb antibiotic use in livestock
- House Republicans signal support for budget deal
- Pilot in San Francisco crash blames stress
- Health care website in review, Sebelius tells House panel
- Iraq War vet to get $645K in California police beating
- Arizona officer living in U.S. illegally resigns
- Jury fails to agree on term for retired couple’s Arizona killer McCluskey
- Pope Francis popular with U.S. Catholics, poll finds
- 30-year prisoner relieved to be free
- Illinois overhauls its public pensions, cutting benefits for most workers, retirees