House passes Postal reform bill

Published 9:40 am Sunday, February 13, 2022

The House of Representatives on Friday passed the Postal Service Reform Act, HR 3076, by a vote of 342 to 92, sending a landmark postal bill to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would accomplish several goals pursued by National Newspaper Association since debate on saving universal mail service commenced in recent years. NNA was instrumental in the passage of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, but that legislation picked up a late amendment that saddled the Postal Service with a $5 billion annual obligation to prefund retiree health costs for 75 years.

The prefunding requirement was met for only two years and then an ailing USPS transferred the obligation to debt on its balance sheet.  The rising debt alarmed the Postal Regulatory Commission, which gave USPS authority to pass along substantial postage increases. In 2023, newspapers can expect two increases totaling nearly 10 percent in higher costs.

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The PSRA would roll back the debt, require USPS to lower its retiree health costs by shifting about a quarter of its retirees into Medicare, for which Medicare taxes have already been paid.
Other important provisions are in the bill, including a mandate for continued 6-day mail service. It also would allow community newspapers to increase their uses of the mail by sending sample copies to potential new subscribers.

Brett Wesner, NNA chair and publisher of Wesner Publications, Cordell, OK, said NNA was celebrating a long-awaited signal by Congress that it was serious about preserving mail service.
“This day has finally come,” Wesner said. “We greatly appreciate the hard work of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, and James Comer, R-KY, in crafting a bill that drew wide bipartisan support, despite some unaccountable resistance. These two leaders came up with a complex bill that will give USPS some financial running room and, more importantly, demonstrate to the nation that we value this national treasure, the US Postal Service.  Now it is on to the Senate.

“I wish I could reassure our members that today’s victory will mean stable postal rates and supremely reliable service. We know that more work is to be done to reach those goals. Today, however, we want to thank members of Congress and our own advocates for a job well done.”