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Postal Reform Must Preserve Rural Mail Service


Location: Unknown

As I travel the Third District, one of the issues I hear about most often is the future of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The USPS is an important part of life in Rural America, where efficient and effective mail delivery is vital to commerce and everyday life.

Despite playing such an integral role, the Postal Service is literally just months away from defaulting on its obligations. USPS is running a $25 million deficit every single day as a result of the rise of electronic communications and other market factors. The Postmaster General acknowledges sometime next year USPS will not even be able to pay its more than 500,000 employees. With labor costs making up 80 percent of the Postal Service's operating budget, personnel issues remain the top impediment to sustainability. These staggering problems came into full focus this past week when USPS announced a $3.2 billion loss during the first three months of this year.

Without prudent, long-term changes, the Postal Service's debt will balloon to nearly $100 billion in potential liabilities for U.S. taxpayers by the end of 2016. In these challenging fiscal times, the American people certainly have no appetite for another massive bailout. If there is one thing on which everyone agrees, it is the status quo is unsustainable and meaningful reform is desperately needed.

Over the past several months, the USPS has made closing rural mail facilities a major focus of its cost cutting efforts. While it may make sense to close certain facilities, rural post offices should not be viewed as a primary target for budgetary savings. In fact, according to the Postal Regulatory Commission, the closure of the 10,000 smallest post offices would only save USPS seven-tenths of one percent of its annual operating budget -- not even a single penny on the dollar.

I appreciate the Postal Service's decision to consider alternatives such as reduced operating hours for rural post offices. But at the end of the day, arbitrarily cutting rural mail service, regardless of the approach, will yield USPS next to no savings while greatly disrupting commerce and daily life in Rural America. It is in every stakeholder's interest to look at the bigger picture and make meaningful, long-term reform the top priority.

With these realities in mind, I proposed an amendment to the postal reform bill currently in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2309) which would cap rural post office closures at no more than 5 percent of total closures in any given year, and offer more guarantees USPS will maintain universal service. The bill's principal author, Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, has endorsed my approach and asked me to participate in a working group of rural Republicans to outline priorities and discuss various options before H.R. 2309 comes to the House floor for consideration. I appreciate Chairman Issa's commitment to giving rural communities a voice throughout this process as well as his support for my common sense amendment.

In small towns across Nebraska, the post office is the center of the community and is an important link to the rest of the nation. Therefore, it is vital USPS continues to fulfill its original mission of universal service while at the same time fixing its bottom line. Postal reform is complicated and merits thoughtful consideration. As we move forward with our efforts in the House, I will continue working closely with Chairman Issa and House Leadership to ensure Congress allows USPS the flexibility it needs to achieve the maximum amount of savings with the least disruption for rural customers.

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