Potter to Postmasters: 'Don't Get Into the Rate Discussion' on Hill

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Postmaster General John E. Potter discussed the possibility of increased costs for the U.S. Postal Service as well as on-time delivery and service quality at a gathering of more than 400 postmasters this week.

Potter spoke Monday at the 35th annual legislative forum sponsored by the National League of Postmasters at Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA.

"You are here on a very important week, when the president's budget is released," he said at the opening general session. "Is there extra money? What about cuts? Think about the context in what you're up on the Hill for. We've been asked to operate as a business. We think more people will use our services if the quality is high enough and delivery is on time.

"It's not about you or me. It's about universal service. If you talk me-me-me, we lose. We have a dedicated work force with a goal in mind; that's what will win on Capitol Hill. Don't get into the rate discussion. No decision has been made. It's not worth talking about. If legislation [or lack of it] drives our costs up, it will be reflected in rates."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also spoke.

"I want to assure you that it's an absolute top priority to get the passage of a fair and comprehensive postal reform bill," she said. "We're working closely with [National League of Postmasters] president Steve LeNoir to make sure that our rural communities have the same ready access to the postal service as that in our cities."

Collins said that last year, for the first time, "the House and Senate postal reform bills got through committee. That bodes well this year. We've met with the PMG, and this year I am hopeful we will get it all the way through."

Rep. Tom Davis, R-VA, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, stressed the need to pass legislation quickly to correct the overfunding of the Civil Service Retirement System as well as the military-pension issue. Both have the potential to cause a double-digit postal rate increase if they cannot be solved.

"I've never been so optimistic about moving the bill," he said. "This year, we're already making pretty good progress, but we can't get it done without you."

Jim Miller, the new chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, noted the realities of the universal service mandate and the constraints of operating like a business.

"Legislation ought to address the issues, but not just for the short term," he said. "We don't want to get nibbled to death, and we can't perform well that way. Share your views with legislators."

LeNoir led postmasters through a four-day program of workshops and meetings before they headed to Capitol Hill for a congressional breakfast and appointments with legislators yesterday.

Other issues addressed at the forum included the number of early-out retirements of postmasters, estimated at 1,500, that will continue through the early part of this year.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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