Postal Service angered by regulator review schedule
Updated 2:48 p.m. ET
The U.S. Postal Service said Thursday it is disappointed with the schedule put forth by postal regulators to consider proposed changes to Saturday mail delivery, arguing the Postal Regulatory Commission needs to move faster to help the mail agency avoid financial insolvency.
The commission plans to hold seven town halls across the country in May and June to gauge public reaction to the proposed cutbacks, it said Wednesday. But its review schedule stretches into October and the start of fiscal 2011, beyond the time Postmaster General John E. Potter hopes Congress will act to give the mail agency permission to end Saturday mail deliveries, close post offices and end the mandated prefunding of its retiree health benefits. Many lawmakers have said they won't vote on postal reforms until the PRC issues a nonbinding opinion on the cutbacks.
The PRC plans to hold town halls in Las Vegas, Sacramento, Dallas and Memphis in May and Chicago, Rapid City, S.D., and Buffalo in June (see full schedule below). Regulators said they will hold hearings in Washington in mid-July to thoroughly review the Postal Service's proposals and allow rebuttal testimony from customer groups and unions in September.
Regulators will leave the dockets open through Oct. 12 and then deliver a nonbinding opinion at some point after.
In a statement, Postal Service spokesman Gerald McKiernan said "We are very disappointed to learn that the Commission has been unable to develop a more expeditious schedule," adding later that "This is a matter of considerable urgency for the Postal Service as our financial condition continues to deteriorate. It’s critical that the Congress have an opportunity to review this matter some time this year."
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who oversees Postal issues in the Senate, also said Thursday that he's concerned by the commission's schedule.
"This seems to me to be an awfully long period of time, especially when you consider the fact that the 9/11 Commission came out with its report just seven months after President Bush signed the bill that created it into law," Carper said in a statement.
"I recognize that this is an issue that a lot of people have strong feelings about but I hope that the commission can make its views known on a quicker timeline, particularly given the dire financial circumstances currently facing the Postal Service," Carper said.
A PRC spokesman said the panel hopes to move as quickly as possible, but must allow due process for unions, customer groups and other organizations to consider the plans and submit their thoughts.
The spokesman noted that the commission has already issued an opinion on possibly ending billions of dollars of prepayments into the retiree health benefits accounts. It also expects to issue an opinion in July on the government overcharging the Postal Service $75 billion in contributions to the Civil Service Retirement System pension fund.
With those two opinions, Congress could conceivably move forward before the end of September on addressing both issues, which could help close the Postal Service's anticipated $238 billion in losses in the next decade. The Postal Service's fiscal year ends in September.
Postal Regulatory Commission's Town Hall Schedule:
Las Vegas: May 10, 1 p.m.
City Council Chambers, 400 Stewart Ave.
Sacramento: May 12, 9 a.m.
Sacramento City Hall, City Council Chambers, 915 I St.
Dallas: May 17, 1 p.m.
Dallas City Hall, City Council Chambers, 1500 Marilla Ave.
Memphis: May 19, 1 p.m.
Memphis City Hall, City Council Chambers, 125 N. Main St.
Chicago: June 21, 1 p.m.
Chicago City Hall, City Council Chambers, 121 N. LaSalle St.
Rapid City, S.D.: June 23, 9 a.m.
Journey Museum, 222 New York St.
Buffalo: June 28, 1:00 p.m.
Buffalo City Hall, City Council Chambers, 65 Niagara Sq., 12th Floor
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