Postal reform bill introduced in Senate

Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE) introduced a bill September 23 that would allow the US Postal Service to reduce the number of its home delivery days, close unnecessary post offices, and open less-expensive retail outlets or automated kiosks in grocery stores and other retail areas.

The Postal Operations Sustainment and Transformation (POST) Act of 2010, would also give the Postal Service immediate financial relief by addressing the pension and retiree health benefit issues that have weighed down its bottom line. The bill calls for the Office of Personnel Management to recalculate the Postal Service’s obligation to the Civil Service Retirement System using a modern formula and apply the savings to the USPS’ retiree health benefits fund. This new formula could save the Postal Service about $5 billion a year, according to estimates.

“If we act quickly, we can turn things around by passing this necessary bill that would give the Postal Service the room it needs to manage itself and avoid it becoming the latest victim of congressional gridlock,” said Carper, chairman of the Senate subcommittee with postal oversight and a key architect of the 2006 postal reform legislation.

Postmaster General John Potter applauded the bill, calling it a “roadmap to recovery for the Postal Service.”

“It incorporates many of the key elements we have identified as necessary and essential to allow the Postal Service to meet the changing needs of its customers,” he said in a statement. The USPS had no comment on the bill beyond Potter’s statement.

The bill would also require arbitrators in a collective bargaining dispute to take the Postal Service’s financial condition into account when rendering a decision. It would also allow the Postal Service to explore non-postal services, which the current Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act restricts. The POST Act of 2010 also would allow the USPS to ship beer and wine, a service that UPS and FedEx already provide.

Jerry Cerasale, SVP for government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association, said the bill takes the financial burden from the Postal Service and gives it some tools to improve its business model. Yet it still will require hard work from USPS management to keep the Postal Service viable, he said.

“It comes down to management taking the tools and slashing costs, not just cutting costs, but slashing them,” said Cerasale. “Carper is giving the Postal Service the tools, but they have to run with it.”

With only a handful of days left in the current legislative session, the bill is not likely to get much traction this year, but it provides a springboard for legislators in 2011.

“Given the serious challenges facing the Postal Service, Senator Carper felt it was important to move forward with the legislation as soon as it was ready,” said Emily Spain, Carper spokesperson.

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