Postal Service offers overhaul bill wish list

The Postal Service produced a list of provisions this week it would like to see in postal overhaul bills that lawmakers plan to introduce next week, although it may be too late.

At the request of the House Government Reform and the Senate Governmental Affairs committees, the Postal Service submitted 29 proposed amendments to postal bills the committees approved in previous years. These include amendments increasing the agency's rate-setting flexibility, opening new employees' health and retirement benefits to collective bargaining, and streamlining the process for closing or consolidating low-performing post offices and mail handling facilities.

Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's special postal panel, said this week he wished the Postal Service had submitted them earlier.

"I don't want to rule it out of hand, but it's a late entry, to say the least," McHugh said, adding that he had not yet seen the amendments. "It won't get the kind of attention it would have had we received it 18 months ago, rather than 18 hours ago," he said.

Postmaster General Jack Potter said the amendments are consistent with his comments to Congress during the past two years, and lawmakers should not be surprised by any of the proposals.

"This just gives them language to work with that we think is necessary for the Postal Service to be successful," said Ralph Moden, Postal Service senior vice president for governmental affairs. "There's nothing in the package that should be new for them."

The list does not include two issues the Postal Service has said are essential -- transferring military retirement payments back to the Treasury Department and abolishing an escrow account the Postal Service is scheduled to begin paying into in 2006. The agency submitted language for those provisions in February so CBO could score them.

Potter reiterated this week that any postal legislation must resolve those two issues.

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