Baucus, Tester call for passage of Postal Service reform

Havre Daily News

by Tim Leeds

USPS announces plans to consolidate Kalispell processing facility with Missoula

With the U. S. Postal Service moving forward with plans to consolidate its Kalispell mail sorting facility with Missoula’s, Montana’s U. S. senators are renewing their call for the U. S. House of Representatives to pass the Senate Postal Service reform.

“The Senate passed a commonsense plan to get the Postal Service back on track in April, and it’s absolutely unacceptable that we are still waiting for action five months later while jobs are on the line, ” Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said in a release. “Targeting rural jobs is not the right way to put the Postal Service back in the black, and I will continue fighting to protect the jobs of postal workers in Kalispell and all across Montana. “

“Montanans may lose their jobs because of a failure of leadership by the House of Representatives, ” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., added in the release. “We have waited and waited for them to act and now the consequences of their inaction are coming home to Kalispell. That’s unacceptable. “

The issue came to a head in Montana in the past few years with proposals by the Postal Service to close rural post offices in an attempt to save money.

The proposal included closing 3,700 post offices, which translated to 85 post offices in Montana with almost 90 percent of them more than 10 miles from another post office.

The Postal Service later backed off that proposal after stiff opposition, moving instead toward reducing hours in smaller post offices.

The Senate passed its bill in April, on a 62-37 vote with 13 Republicans voting in favor. It included a measure removing a requirement that the Postal Service prepay retirement benefits for its employees, which no other U. S. government agency is required to do.

Tester said last spring that the requirement is the single biggest cause of the Postal Service budget deficit.

Baucus and Tester also slammed the House for failing to pass the reform bill after the Postal Service defaulted at the start of August on a $5.5 billion payment for those benefits.

The bill also prohibited closing any offices for a year, and included other provisions by Baucus and Tester including an amendment that cut the payment of top Postal Service executives.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahue has said the agency must reduce its expenditures by about $20 billion in the coming years.

Baucus and Tester said the Senate bill would provide $19 billion in savings by 2016, according to analysis provided by the Postal Service, adding that, without comprehensive postal reform, the Postal Service is likely to run out of money in calendar year 2013.