House Schedules Postal Pension Bill Markup

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The House Government Reform Committee scheduled a markup of the Postal Civil Service Retirement System Funding Reform Act of 2003 for March 6.

The bill would let the U.S. Postal Service lower its pension contributions to the Civil Service Retirement System. If Congress passes the legislation, the USPS estimates it would save $2.9 billion in fiscal year 2003 and $2.8 billion in FY 2004.

Efforts to lower the pension contributions came after a review last year by the federal Office of Personnel Management found that the USPS would exceed its obligations to the Civil Service Retirement System by $71 billion based on current contribution levels. A General Accounting Office report last month went further, stating that the postal service already has overfunded the CSRS by $4.1 billion.

Pension contributions are fixed by law and cannot be changed without congressional approval.

The markup gives committee members the chance to offer amendments to the bill, though none is expected. The bill likely will be approved by the committee and come up for a vote in the full House relatively quickly.

"I think that given the financial impact of the issue, members of the committee felt it important to bring the bill up as fast as they could," said Bob McLean, executive director of the Mailers Council.

The bill calls for the USPS to use the savings to pay down its $11 billion debt to the Treasury Department in fiscal years 2003, 2004 and 2005, continue to fund retiree health benefits and hold postal rates steady until 2006.

Beyond 2005, the bill would require the postal service and OPM to calculate the difference between the cost to fund CSRS under the bill and the cost under the old law. This amount would be held in escrow until Congress decided what should be done with the money.

The legislation was sponsored by Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis, R-VA; and committee members John McHugh, R-NY; Henry Waxman, D-CA; and Danny Davis, D-IL.

A similar bill was introduced in the Senate this session sponsored by Governmental Affairs Committee chairwoman Susan Collins, R-ME, and committee member Tom Carper, D-DE. No timetable has been set for this bill.

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