Hail Mary Attempt for Postal Reform
WASHINGTON, DC—Printers some day might be referring to December 7, 2006 as the Miracle on the Potomac. Just when it seemed that postal reform was to receive last rites in the lame duck session, Congressional leaders threw a lifeline to the legislative effort in an attempt to update the U.S. Postal Service’s 36-year-old business procedures.
A compromise by key House and Senate leaders set the stage for a dash to the finish line, as today marks the end of the session for the 109th Congress. But the chance still existed that the bill could be derailed.
Among the highlights of the compromise, according to the Washington Post:
• A cap on rates linked to increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that would be reviewed after 10 years by a newly created Postal Regulatory Commission.
• The law requiring the USPS to make payments into an escrow fund would be repealed. That would release $78 billion over 60 years, funds that could be used to cover retiree health care liabilities and maybe lower rate increases.
• Installs a three-day waiting period before a USPS employee is eligible to receive worker’s compensation—key to the passage of the bill, as it was a sticking point in the objections made by the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) previously.
Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) was quoted by the Post as saying that the legislation “will help us avoid disastrous future postal rate hikes and put the Postal Service on firm financial footing for the 21st century.” Further, the bill would enable the USPS to “survive at a time when more and more people communicate and do business through faxes, e-mail and electronic bill pay rather than hard copy mail.”