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Potter Urges Postal Funding in Appropriations Bill

Postmaster general John E. Potter has urged the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee to include funding for postal appropriations in the Fiscal Year 2005 Transportation, Treasury, and Independent Agencies Appropriation bill.

Potter seeks a total of $883.88 million. The bill currently provides for $61.71 million. In his letter to the chairman dated Aug. 31, Potter expressed the U.S. Postal Service's concern regarding the level of funding provided in the bill.

“Other than the advance appropriation of $36.5 million for free mail provided in the fiscal year 2004 appropriations bill, no new funding is proposed for fiscal year 2005,” Potter wrote. “This is a dramatic departure from past recommended funding levels and impedes recent efforts to address long-term liabilities as suggested by the Government Accountability Office and the Report of the President's Commission on the United States Postal Service.”

The largest request is $779 million for emergency preparedness. None of this funding is included in the bill.

Also, Potter said that the biohazard detection equipment that is being purchased and installed in mail processing centers nationwide “is state-of-the-art technology that was among the first technologies designated by the Department of Homeland Security as 'qualified anti-terrorism technology' under the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act.”

Potter also noted in the letter that, at the request of the federal government, the USPS is spending about $800,000 monthly to sanitize mail sent to Congress and government offices within the District of Columbia.

“Although the postal service intends to absorb the operating costs of the equipment designed to enhance the safety of the mail, we are very concerned that payment for the equipment to provide these services, as well as other efforts to improve mail safety, are not considered a priority,” Potter said in the letter.

Potter also said the agency is due $29 million as part of the Revenue Forgone Reform Act of 1993, which allocates $29 million annually to the USPS through 2035. This $29 million debt repayment would be the 12th of 42 payments on a more than $1.2 billion debt owed to the postal service. Nearly $900 million remains, but the postal service could be forced to write off the entire debt if Congress balks on this payment. The appropriations bill does not include this statutory reimbursement.

The USPS also requested $75.88 million to fund the free mailing of materials used by the blind. It also sought funding for absentee-balloting materials.

Congress likely will take up appropriations bills, including the Fiscal Year 2005 Transportation, Treasury, and Independent Agencies Appropriation bill, this month — before Congress' Oct. 1 scheduled adjournment.

Industry insiders said if this money were not appropriated, it would have to be built into rates. The USPS is expected to file a rate case in spring 2005, and rates could increase in early 2006.

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