Postal Service runs $3.9B surplus; White House backs reforms

The Postal Service announced Tuesday that it finished fiscal 2003 with a $3.9 billion budget surplus, exceeding its projections by $300 million.

"These financial results are important to the American consumer and American businesses, for they reinforce our confidence that we can hold current stamp prices unchanged until 2006," said Richard Strasser, the Postal Service's chief financial officer, at a meeting of the Postal Board of Governors.

Strasser said the financial results were partly the result of a $2 billion cost-cutting initiative postal managers undertook early in the fiscal year. The productivity of the postal workforce in fiscal 2003 was twice that anticipated in the agency's financial plans.

The results come at a time when Congress is considering major reforms to postal operations. On Monday, President Bush met with members of the nine-member bipartisan commission created a year ago to recommend steps to overhaul the Postal Service. After the meeting, the White House urged Congress to pass postal reform legislation based on five principles:

  • Implement best practices. Ensure that the Postal Service's governing body is equipped to meet the responsibilities and objectives of an enterprise of its size and scope.
  • Transparency.
  • Ensure that important factual information on the Postal Service's product costs and performance is accurately measured and made available to the public in a timely manner.
  • Flexibility.
  • Ensure that the Postal Service's governing body and management have the authority to reduce costs, set rates, and adjust key aspects of its business in order to meet its obligations to customers in a dynamic marketplace.
  • Accountability.
  • Ensure that a Postal Service operating with greater flexibility has appropriate independent oversight to protect consumer welfare and universal mail service.
  • Self-Financing.
  • Ensure that a Postal Service operating with greater flexibility is financially self-sufficient, covering all of its obligations.
The White House did not make specific recommendations for implementing the principles.

In response to the White House statement, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman D-Calif., Rep. John M. McHugh, R-N.Y., head of the committee's Special Panel on Postal Reform and Oversight, and the special panel's ranking member, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., Monday said they would make postal reform a top priority for the second session of the 108th Congress.

"The Postal Service continues to be hampered by flagging revenue, high costs and an untenable debt load," the legislators said in a joint statement. "This crisis has been brewing for years, and it's time to act on comprehensive reform."

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