2011 Legislative Agenda : Capitol Watchdogs Wanted

Lisbeth Lyons, vice president of Government Affairs at the Printing Industries of America.

The USPS has done a strong job of reeling in its costs, but many people believe it can do better as the new Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, gets his feet wet. The denial of the USPS’ exigent price increase request, if nothing else, set off SOS flares that lawmakers clearly saw. At press time there were two pieces of legislation proposed that, while containing two fairly different road maps, boasted the same destination.

The first one was introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the second by someone very familiar to the print lobby, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). The former bill, a.k.a. the Postal Operations Sustainment and Transformation (POST) Act of 2010, has the support of Donahoe. It provides several outlets for cost-cutting, including the elimination of one day of delivery and the option to close down poorly performing facilities. Collins’ bill does not contain such provisions.

The big tamale is in both bills—repurposing the overpayment of the pension fund, which is roughly $50 billion to $75 billion. A recalculation of the pension funding that includes diverting the surplus to the health benefits fund would presumably set the USPS on the road to recovery.

Some reform that would build upon the Postal Enhancement Accountability Act of 2006 is realistic this year. It’s a matter of hashing out some characteristics that will entail the USPS of tomorrow.

“We don’t expect five-day 
delivery to go anywhere in the next year, because there isn’t a big flow of support for it in either party,” Lyons says.

While getting into new lines of business may seem a logical route, a major paradigm shift to banking and insurance (commonly transacted at international postal services) is unlikely due to federal regulatory constraints. Sundry offerings along the lines of the USPS’ greeting card business are more realistic.

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