Tester provisions to protect Montana postal services clear Senate panel

Senator’s legislation preserves 6-day delivery, calls on Postal Service to reconsider closure plans

(U.S. SENATE) –U.S. Senator Jon Tester and his colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee today approved new legislation to better protect Montana’s small post offices and other postal facilities from possible closure, and to preserve six-day mail delivery for at least another year.

The Committee today approved the Financial Services Appropriations Act, which includes a specific provision by Tester preventing the Postal Service from using taxpayer funds to close small or rural post offices.  The Postal Service recently proposed shuttering 85 post offices across Montana in an effort to cut costs.

If passed, Tester’s provision would mean that any post office closures would need to be paid for with the Postal Service’s own revenue, such as that earned from selling stamps.

As he did last year, Tester also included specific language to keep the Postal Service from cutting mail service from six to five days a week.

The bill also prevents the U.S. Postal Service from moving Area Mail Processing centers and other postal facilities without fully examining all consequences and costs.

Earlier today, the Postal Service announced it will begin the process of moving Missoula’s and Kalispell’s mail processing facilities to Spokane.  The Postal Service is also proposing relocating its Wolf Point processing facility to Billings, and changing mail sorting protocols in Helena.

Tester responded by asking the head of the Postal Service to cancel proposals to close Montana’s mail processing facilities in order to give the full Congress a chance to pass its legislation.

“As you seek the fiscal balance we both agree is needed, it is critical that the Postal Service not balance its books on the back of rural America,” Tester said in a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe.  “I hope that future decisions by the Postal Service better reflect that reality.”

Tester believes the Postal Service could save money with fewer harmful consequences by consolidating more post offices in major metropolitan areas and co-locating postal services into stores in rural areas.

Tester is also a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, which has jurisdiction over the Postal Service.  He recently directed his Montana staff to attend as many public meetings as possible to discuss the possible closures of Montana post offices.

Tester’s letter to Donahoe appears below and online HERE.


September 15, 2011

Patrick Donahue
Postmaster General
United States Postal Service
458 L’Enfant Plaza Southwest
Washington D.C., DC 20024-2114

Dear Postmaster General Donahoe:

I write to express my opposition to your announcement that additional Montana Area Mail Processing (AMPs) centers are to be considered for closure—leaving the state with only two AMPs to serve 950,000 customers spread out over almost 150,000 square miles. 

As we discussed, I understand the Postal Service’s precarious financial situation and the need to re-shape the Postal Service to meet this fiscal reality.  However, the Postal Service’s proposals to reduce costs are disproportionately harmful to rural America – which relies on regular mail delivery for medication, correspondence, checks and newspapers.  Small businesses throughout the United States are at the mercy of the speed of delivery to receive the payments and parts necessary to maintain their business and employees.

Because of the unique role of the Postal Service in rural America, the Senate Appropriations Committee included language in the Fiscal Year 2012 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that forbids the Postal Service from using taxpayer dollars to close small post offices in rural America.  I directed my staff to attend as many public meetings about the proposed closures as possible.  The response has been overwhelmingly against closure, yet the Postal Service shows no signs of taking these comments into account.  I specifically requested that this provision be included in the bill because of the many comments from Montanans that you and I have both received opposing the closure of these post offices. 

The bill also includes a direction to the Postal Service to suspend consolidations of Area Mail Processing facilities where a full AMP study has not been conducted.  In your letter to me today, you state that you intend to begin studies of the closure of such facilities in Missoula, Kalispell and Wolf Point.  Missoula and Kalispell are two of Montana’s fastest growing cities, while Wolf Point provides an important second AMP in eastern Montana, ensuring timely mail delivery to 21 counties.  These are critical facilities for speedy mail delivery in Montana.  In light of the importance of these facilities and the concerns raised by the Committee today, I strongly urge you to cancel these proposed studies. 

As you seek the fiscal balance we both agree is needed, it is critical that the Postal Service not balance its books on the back of rural America.  I hope that future decisions by the Postal Service better reflect that reality.

Jon Tester