White House Is Taking an Interest in Postal Reform, Burton Says

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WASHINGTON -- Rep. Dan Burton told a packed house at the opening session of the Direct Marketing Association/Internet Alliance's 2001 Government Affairs Conference yesterday that he has spoken with a White House representative about the U.S. Postal Service's financial woes, and they are willing to listen.

Referring to the USPS' possible $3 billion deficit -- among other USPS problems -- Burton said, "We are facing a serious problem. I contacted the White House yesterday and spoke with ... Don Evans [secretary of the Commerce Department], and he assured me that he was going to bring this up at the next cabinet meeting."

Burton, R-IN -- who is chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, which oversees the postal service -- also offered his views about the importance of postal reform. "Reform must preserve the [ability] of the postal service to provide universal service of all classes of mail to the American public at affordable rates," he said.

Burton said the USPS needs flexibility over its "people, prices and products" and that "postal customers need assurances of rate stability and service quality" from the USPS.

He also noted that "any reform must ensure a level playing field between the postal service, [its] people and the private sector."

Burton said the postal service currently does not provide incentives for efficient management.

"Under the current statutory framework, if the postal service needs funds, it looks to higher rates," Burton said. "The postal service should be required to meet performance standards and goals, and there need to be consequences for not meeting those goals."

Burton said that in order for postal reform to be passed, it must take a bipartisan approach. As a result, Burton asked members of the postal employee unions to talk to the Democrats.

"I'm working with the Republicans to try to make sure that although we have strong differences on a lot of other issues, we realize the importance of the postal problem," he said.

Burton said he is meeting today with the postmaster general, William J. Henderson, along with "former mayor of Indianapolis [Steven] Goldsmith, who may be the next postmaster general, to make sure that we let them know all of the issues we are discussing."

Burton said he "has heard reports that Steve Goldsmith may be the next postmaster, and I feel very strongly after having worked with him when he was mayor of Indianapolis that he would make an outstanding postmaster general because he did a lot of reform work in Indianapolis."

Finally, Burton said there would be another hearing on postal reform and postal financial issues on May 16. The hearing will include representatives from labor organizations and from the major mailing groups. These groups were not present at the Committee on Government Reform's first hearing, which took place last month.

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