Potter: USPS Will Work to Get Legislation Passed to Allow Rate Stability

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WASHINGTON -- With optimistic mailers around him, postmaster general John E. Potter made it clear yesterday that the U.S. Postal Service will work as hard as it needs to get legislation passed to allow changes to retirement funding to delay the next rate increase.

Speaking at the quarterly Mailers Technical Advisory Committee meeting, he said, "We are going to work to get this legislation as quickly as we can."

Potter was referring to news the agency announced Tuesday saying that the next rate increase may not happen until 2006 -- two years later than planned -- after a financial review uncovered that funding for a retirement plan is in much better shape than previously thought.

Congressional action is needed to allow changes to the retirement funding, Potter said. The federal Office of Personnel Management has such a legislative change and sent it to the Office of Management and Budget. Potter said he thinks the Bush administration will support the change and OMB, OPM and the Treasury Department offered their support to brief Congress.

Speaking in a teleconference earlier in the day, chief financial officer Richard Strasser said postal officials expect to agree with the language this week and offer briefings to lawmakers next week. If legislation isn't passed during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, Strasser said, "we will have to begin gearing up to prepare a rate filing in January that we can file [with the PRC] in the spring."

In general, mailers greeted the news with cautious optimism.

"While this is great news for the postal service, there are still a lot of what-ifs," said Kimberley J. Waltz, president of Fred F. Waltz Co. Inc., North Smithfield, RI, a nonprofit mailing specialist. "What if Congress doesn't pass the legislation? We'll be here in February [when the next MTAC meeting is scheduled to take place] talking about what could have happened."

With a Republican Congress coming in, however, many expect the legislation to be passed.

"I think its fantastic news," said Howard Shwartz, an executive director at Conde Nast Publications, New York. "It's much-needed, great news for the postal service and for the mailing industry."

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