WASHINGTON, May 9 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today welcomed Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe's decision to abandon plans to close 3,600 rural post offices, including 15 in Vermont, but voiced reservations about a new plan to cut hours of operation.
Sanders called on the House to pass a Postal Service reform bill that a bipartisan majority of senators approved on April 25.
He said he is increasingly confident that many postal sorting facilities once slated for shutdowns will be spared, including one at White River Junction, Vt.
But he questioned aspects of Donahoe's new plan, announced earlier today, to cut hours of operation at 13,000 post offices, including 145 in Vermont.
"The good news is that all 15 rural post offices slated to be shut down in Vermont will remain open. The bad news is that dozens of post offices in Vermont and around the country will see their hours cut. I will continue to fight to keep as many of these post offices open for as long as possible," Sanders said.
"While I have no doubt that some rural post offices could see hours cut, I am concerned about the impact of reduced hours on many communities. The truth is that reducing hours in rural post offices will not save significant amounts compared to the Postal Service's overall budget," Sanders added.
The plan to cut post office hours comes at a time when Congress is working on legislation that would maintain mail delivery standards, keep postal facilities open and create a new business model for the Postal Service - all without costing taxpayers a dime.
The Senate-passed bill addresses the major reason for the Postal Service's financial troubles - a $5.5 billion annual mandate to pre-fund 75 years of future retiree health benefits in just 10 years. This onerous requirement, unparalleled by any entity in the private sector or government, is responsible for more than 80 percent of the Postal Service's debt. Without that obligation, the Postal Service would have posted a profit of $700 million from 2007-2010, and a $200 million profit in the first quarter of this fiscal year. The Senate-passed bill also addresses the reality that the Postal Service overpaid $11 billion into the Federal Employees Retirement System.
The measure now awaiting action by the House also includes a Sanders provision to let the Postal Service become more entrepreneurial. He wants the Postal Service to explore new opportunities to increase business, such as expanding digital services, selling hunting and fishing licenses, making copies, notarizing documents, and cashing checks.
"The Postal Service does need a new business model in order to be successful in the 21st century. Rather than cutting services, Congress should lift restrictions so the Postal Service can become more entrepreneurial and earn new revenue," Sanders said.