The Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, chaired by Susan Collins (R-ME), has scheduled a public hearing Thursday regarding the “ongoing need for comprehensive postal reform.”
Witnesses at the hearing are expected to include the following:
– Timothy S. Bitsberger, assistant secretary of the Treasury for financial markets
– Roger Kodat, deputy assistant secretary for government financial policy for the Department of Treasury
– John E. Potter, postmaster general, U.S. Postal Service
– David M. Walker, comptroller general, Government Accountability Office
Collins and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) recently introduced comprehensive legislation aimed at reforming USPS – what would be the first major overhaul of USPS since 1970. If passed, Collins and Carper said the reforms could preserve jobs of more than 750,000 career USPS workers as well as a $900 billion mailing industry that is responsible for up to 11 million jobs nationwide.
USPS and the President’s Commission on the United States Postal Service have also agreed that comprehensive postal reform is necessary to preserve universal service at an affordable rate.
“First and foremost, the Collins-Carper bill preserves the basic features of universal service – affordable rates, frequent delivery, and convenient community access to retail postal services,” said Collins in introducing the bill. “If the Postal Service were no longer to provide universal service and deliver mail to every customer, the affordable communication link upon which many Americans rely would be jeopardized. Most commercial enterprises would find it uneconomical, if not impossible, to deliver mail and packages to rural Americans at rates charged by the Postal Service. If we are to save and strengthen this vital service upon which so many American rely for communication and their livelihoods, the time to act is now.”
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity this year to pass meaningful, comprehensive postal reform legislation,” Sen. Carper said. “The Postal Service, under the leadership of Postmaster General Potter, has done an excellent job in recent years in cutting costs and making themselves more efficient. This will only take them so far, however. In the coming years, Americans will continue to turn to faxes, e-mail and electronic bill pay to communicate with friends and family and conduct business. We need to make fundamental changes in the way the Postal Service operates in order to make them as successful in the 21st century as they have been for more than 30 years. We also need to take swift action to shore up the Postal Service’s finances and prevent potentially crippling rate increases. Our bill does both of these things. Just as postal workers don’t let anything stand in their way of delivering the mail every day, Congress shouldn’t adjourn this year without doing our jobs and sending this vital piece of legislation to the President’s desk.”
The Collins-Carper postal reform legislation grants the Postal Service Board of Governors the authority to set rates for competitive products like Express Mail and Parcel Post, as long as these prices do not result in cross subsidy from market-dominant products. It replaces the current lengthy and litigious rate-setting process with a rate cap-based structure for market-dominant products such as First-Class Mail, periodicals, and library mail. The bill also introduces new safeguards against unfair competition by the Postal Service in competitive markets. The legislation transforms the existing Postal Rate Commission into the Postal Regulatory Commission with greatly enhanced authority to ensure that the Postal Service management has greater latitude and stronger oversight.
The legislation would also repeal a provision of Public Law 108-18 which requires that money owed to the Postal Service due to an overpayment into the Civil Service Retirement System Fund be held in an escrow account, which would essentially “free up” $78 billion over 60 years. These savings would be used to not only pay off debt to the U.S. Treasury and to fund health care liabilities, but also to mitigate rate increases. It also returns to the Department of Treasury the responsibility for funding CSRS pension benefits relating to the military service of postal retirees.
The Collins-Carper bill also includes provisions that: Reaffirms USPS employees’ right to collectively bargain, replacing the rarely used fact-finding process with mediation, and shortens statutory deadlines for certain phases of the bargaining process; Converts workers’ compensation benefits for total or partial disability to a retirement annuity when the affected employee reaches 65 years of age; Puts into place a three-day waiting period before an employee is eligible to receive 45 days of continuation of pay; Supports the principle that workshare discounts should generally not exceed the costs that the Postal Service avoids as a result of the worksharing activity while spelling out certain circumstances under which workshare discounts in excess of avoided costs are warranted.
The Collins-Carper postal reform legislation is endorsed by the National Association of Postmasters of the United States, National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, National Association of Postal Supervisors, Financial Services Roundtable, and the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, which represents thousands of the major mailers, employee groups, small businesses, and other users of the mail.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a series of eight hearings, including a joint hearing with the House, during which it reviewed the recommendations of the President’s Commission on the United States Postal Service. Senator Collins and Carper also introduced postal reform legislation in the last Congress, which was unanimously reported out of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.