Congress introduces another bill to fix USPS money woes

Senator Susan Collins, R-ME, introduced a new bill aimed at helping the Postal Service regain its financial footing and upped the ante that some sort of bill to fix the Postal Service’s legacy costs might pass in the New Year.

The Senate now has two bills to reform the Postal Service to consider. Collins’ bill comes on the heels of a comprehensive postal reform bill introduced by Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE), and chairman of the the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and Information Technology. The subcommittee held a hearing today to consider the challenges facing the Postal Service. Both bills will have to be reintroduced when the 112th Congress convenes in January.

Collins’ legislation differs in some respects from Carper’s bill, but they both include provisions to fix the overpayment by the Postal Service into its pension funds, estimated to be between $50 billion and $75 billion. Both bills would change the methodology for calculating Postal Service obligations to the pension funds and allow it to redirect the surplus to prefund its retiree healthcare obligations. Fixing the overpayments is the one issue upon which all factions of the mailing industry agree.

“These provisions, if enacted, would go far toward ensuring the future viability and affordability of the national postal system upon which we all depend,” James Cregan of the Affordable Mail Alliance, said of the Collins’ bill.  

Collins’ bill does not contain all of the provisions of the Carper bill. It does not include Carper’s language to allow the USPS to eliminate one day of delivery and close unprofitable post offices. In a statement, Senator Carper said he welcomed Senator Collins’ interest in working with him to address the serious challenges facing the Postal Service, but he indicated her bill falls short of the comprehensive reform needed to overhaul the USPS.

“There are also several very worthwhile new provisions in her bill that I look forward to studying further. Unfortunately, given the gravity of the problems plaguing the Postal Service, Sen. Collins’ bill does not go far enough in some areas. We’re facing a situation in which the Postal Service may go broke by next Christmas. For those who are interested in avoiding a federal bailout of the Postal Service, preserving the old way of doing things is not the right approach,” Carper said, in a statement.

Senator Collins secured the endorsement of a number of key postal groups, including the Direct Marketing Association, the Association for Postal Commerce and the American Catalog Mailers Association. The endorsement of Collins’ bill does not necessarily mean that the groups oppose the Carper bill, said Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce. Both bills address the number one priority — to fix the Postal Service’s overfunding issue, he noted.  

“Let’s tackle the number one problem first — the one thing all stakeholders agree on,” Del Polito said. “Then let’s have a thoughtful policy discussion on what the nation is going to need from a future postal system that is competing in a world of technology and rapidly changing communications.” 

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