Connolly: Congress must address USPS problems

Monday - 10/11/2010, 10:08am EDT

Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia (D)

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By Vyomika Jairam
Federal News Radio

Saving the U.S. Postal Service from bankruptcy could be as simple as an act of Congress. The Inspector General for the Postal Service recently issued a series of reports on how the agency can beef up its bottom line. A big part of that is recovering the billions of dollars in overfunding to the Civil Service Retirement System. But for that to happen, lawmakers must take action, and soon.

"The Postal Service is projected to loose at least $6 billion this year, and we can't let that go," Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told Federal News Radio. "We have to grapple with this problem, and we have to resolve it."

The single most important thing Congress can do? Address the mandatory retirement payment structure.

"[They] really have over-payed their retirement money compared to any other federal agency," Connolly said. "If you were able to return that money to the Postal Service and to the postal employees, that would entirely alleviate the projected shortfall."

Connolly and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) introduced the U.S. Postal Service's CSRS Obligation Modification Act to correct the system. The legislation has 127 co-sponsors.

"It would direct OPM to review the methodology for calculating the Postal Service's retirement obligations and to adjust it so that it's in conformity with that of all other federal agencies," Connolly said. "The estimate is between a $50 and $75 billion reimbursement to the Postal Service. That would go a long way to try and help a cash-starved Postal Service."

The Office of Personnel Management is responsible for establishing the methodology behind retirement contributions.

Among the other cost-cutting options is for USPS to go down to a five day delivery schedule, which Connolly believes would diminish the Postal Service's competitiveness. Before making changes purely for financial reasons, Connolly said the Postal Service needs to consider options from a long-term business model perspective.

"The way to success is not to raise prices and lower service," Connolly said. "I'm frustrated that there seems to be no vision coming out of the Postal Service leadership."

Especially since there are accessible alternatives that can be implemented in the near future.

"We know there are some fixes that could make an immediate difference, and provide immediate and almost comprehensive relief, and I do not see why [Congress] shouldn't do that," Connolly said.