Senate passes Tester’s bipartisan measure to protect rural post offices

Senator says Postal Service ‘doesn’t understand rural America’

(U.S. SENATE) – The U.S. Senate today passed Senator Jon Tester’s bipartisan provision to protect rural post offices from arbitrary closures.

Tester’s amendment became part of the Postal Service reform bill that aims to preserve the Postal Service as it struggles with financial troubles.

Tester’s measure (online HERE) allows the Postal Regulatory Commission to overturn any Postal Service decision to close a post office if the Postal Service does not meet criteria.  The Postal Regulatory Commission is an independent agency that oversees the Postal Service.

“The folks in charge of the Postal Service just don't understand the challenges of rural America,” Tester said.  “Shutting down rural post offices hurts rural communities and the people and businesses who live and work there.  Holding the Postal Service's top leaders more accountable will protect rural America, and make sure the Postal Service isn’t making irresponsible decisions.”

The Senate also approved a bipartisan measure from Tester, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and fellow Montana Senator Max Baucus that blocks the Postal Service from closing any rural post offices for one year.  After the moratorium, the Postal Service could only close rural post offices if it meets certain requirements, such as verifying that another post office is within 10 miles and that seniors and people with disabilities will be able to receive service similar to what they currently receive.

The Postal Service announced plans in August to consider closing 85 Montana post offices, and more recently recommended consolidating mail processing facilities in Kalispell, Missoula, Helena, Butte, and Wolf Point.  Pressure from Tester and Montanans eventually convinced the Postal Service to keep Missoula’s facility open.

Tester, Montana’s only member of the committee that oversees the Postal Service, also introduced a provision (online HERE) to cut the Postmaster General’s base salary by at least one-third.  The Postmaster General makes about $400,000 per year in salary and benefits, and his predecessor made up to $800,000 in total compensation.  Tester is also seeking to cut the pay of other Postal Service executives and deny bonuses.

The Senate is expected to vote on Tester’s executive pay measure later Tuesday.

The Senate is currently considering the 21st Century Postal Service Act.  The legislation is aimed at reforming the Postal Service as it struggles with financial troubles.  Many of the problems are based on a 2006 law that required the Postal Service to prepay retirement benefits of postal employees at a rate higher than necessary.