U.S. Senate measure seeks to slow post office closuresThe U.S. Senate adopted a measure Tuesday pushed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota to give communities a chance to fight the closure of post offices and sorting facilities.
By: News Tribune, Associated Press, Duluth News Tribune, Associated Press
The U.S. Senate adopted a measure Tuesday pushed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota to give communities a chance to fight the closure of post offices and sorting facilities.
At stake are more than 100,000 jobs, part of a postal cost-cutting plan to save about $6.5 billion a year by closing up to 252 mail-processing centers, including the one in Duluth, and 3,700 post offices. But many local communities worry about layoffs, raising the ire of lawmakers in an election year.
Franken said his amendment gives the Postal Regulatory Commission the power to overturn scheduled post office and processing center closures when communities or individuals make a compelling case to keep the facility open.
The provision was among revisions to a Senate bill aimed at stabilizing the ailing U.S. Postal Service by providing a short-term cash infusion while delaying controversial decisions on closing thousands of post offices and hundreds of processing facilities, including the one in Duluth. It was agreed to on a voice vote.
Senators were scheduled to vote on a final measure as early as today.
“No matter how far we’ve come with technology in this digital age, there are some things that simply cannot be sent via e-mail,” Klobuchar said in a news release. “Seniors rely on the Postal Service to receive their medications and businesses rely on it to ship and receive goods. This legislation provides the necessary reforms to help make the Postal Service more competitive while maintaining the reliable, timely service that Minnesotans expect and deserve.”
The mail agency, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, says it needs to begin closing thousands of low-revenue post offices and mail processing centers this year as part of a billion-dollar cost-cutting effort to become profitable again by 2015. Postmaster General Patrick
Donahoe previously agreed to delay post office closings until May 15 to allow Congress to pass legislation.
The amendments approved Tuesday would:
the information to be posted on the Internet. The amendment, offered by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was approved on voice vote following the scandal over a federal agency spending hundreds of thousands of dollars at a training conference in Las Vegas.
The main postal bill seeks to cut about half the number of mail processing centers the Postal Services currently wants to close — from 252 to 125 — allowing more U.S. areas to maintain overnight first-class mail delivery for at least three more years. Beyond the one-year moratorium on closing rural post offices, the Postal Service would be required to undergo additional layers of approval before closing any mail facility.
In the meantime, the Postal Service would get a cash infusion of about $11 billion, basically a refund of overpayments it made in previous years to a federal retirement fund; the agency could use the money to pay down debt and offer buyouts to 100,000 postal employees. It would be allowed to make smaller annual payments into a future retiree health benefits account, which currently amounts to more than $5 billion a year; get more flexibility to cut worker compensation benefits; and be required to establish a chief innovation officer to find new ways to bring in postal revenue.