Postal Panel Hears More Testimony

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The Presidential Commission on the U.S. Postal Service held its second-to-last public meeting yesterday, and topics included the agency's financial outlook, pricing issues, employee benefits and postal reform.

Withrop Watson, managing director at JP Morgan Chase, said trends suggest that large rate increases will be needed in the future to maintain the postal service's break-even mandate, according to The Association for Postal Commerce's Web site, He also said that if the USPS were a private company, it would need considerably more operating and financial flexibility to make it in today's environment.

Postcom reported that Michael Bradley, an economist often used by the USPS for rate cases, told the commission that the postal service goes to 94 percent of its 140 million addresses every day, and that the economics of this network structure are unique.

Tom Rand of Aon Consulting testified that postal workers receive benefits (paid leave, retirement and health benefits) that are 25 percent more generous than those provided to comparable workers in the private sector, according to Postcom. He also said that postal workers are protected from adverse effects of inflation, and that they can retire at full benefits by age 55, something rare in the private sector.

William Clay, chairman of Consumer Alliance for Postal Services, said his group opposes the closing of postal facilities without extensive public involvement. He added that the frequency of mail service should not be reduced, that technology is not making mail service obsolete and that the USPS does not require significant changes.

He also said business mailers are given unwarranted discounts for their mail, and that the commission needs to determine to what extent bulk advertising mailers are not paying their fair share.

The commission holds its final public meeting today. Witnesses include David Walker, U.S. comptroller general, and John E. Potter, USPS postmaster general.


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