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Federal Eye
Posted at 03:13 PM ET, 05/07/2012

Postal Board of Governors knocks Senate legislation

Davidson

Senate-approved legislation designed to deal with the critical financial situation of the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t get the job done, according to the chairman of the USPS Board of Governors.

“When we ask whether the legislation puts the Postal Service back on a path to financial stability, the bottom line is that the Senate bill does not provide the Postal Service with the flexibility and speed that it needs to have a sustainable business model,” Chairman Thurgood Marshall Jr. told a board meeting Friday.

The bill passed last month does include significant improvements, he added, “but it does not enable all of the cost reductions that are necessary to return to profitability.” Among other things, the Senate bill would not allow USPS to close facilities as quickly as it thinks is necessary and prohibits, for at least two years, a move from six-day to five-day delivery.

Marshall advocated for the business plan USPS published in February.

“We remain unanimous in our conviction that this comprehensive five-year plan is a fair and reasonable approach for our customers, our employees and the communities that we serve,” he said.

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe told the meeting that the plan calls for tough but “right decisions.”

Although Marshall was speaking for the board, which includes Donahoe, the postmaster general did not directly criticize the Senate legislation as the chairman did. That same pattern was evident in the statements they issued on the day of the vote.

“We need to eliminate excess mail processing capacity. We need to rethink how we manage our retail footprint.  We need to manage our health-care costs better.  If we can gain the flexibility to move quickly in these areas, we can return to profitability,” Donahoe said Friday.

“If we are unable to do these and other things, we risk becoming a permanent burden to the American taxpayer.  Such an outcome is entirely avoidable with the right legislation.”

The House also is considering postal legislation.

Marshall praised Donahoe and Ronald A. Stroman, the deputy postmaster general who also is a board member, for showing “great leadership and great dedication. “They have the unqualified confidence and support of the Board of Governors as we move forward,” Marshall said.

The USPS Board of Governors acts like a private firm’s board of directors. Its members, except for the postmaster general and the deputy postmaster general, are appointed by the president.

USPS also is overseen by the presidentially appointed Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent agency known as the Postal Rate Commission until 2006, when it was given greater oversight authority. The commission did not take a position on the Senate bill.

The commission issued a statement saying that it “does not take a position on legislation unless requested to do so by a Congressional Committee with jurisdiction or the Administration.  The Commission recognizes the absolute need for Congress to reverse or rein in the Service’s precarious financial condition.  We are very hopeful that passage of S. 1798 [the Senate bill] may provide the necessary impetus for House action.”

federaldiary@washpost.com

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson. Follow the Federal Diary on Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

By  |  03:13 PM ET, 05/07/2012

 
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