Sen. Ben Nelson believes that many of the rural Nebraska post offices targeted for closing will remain open now that the Senate has approved a postal reform measure.
The bill passed on a 62-37 vote.
The United States Postal Service had agreed to a five-month moratorium on the proposed closing of 3,700 post offices and processing centers nationwide. That moratorium expires May 15th. The Postal Service initially targeted 90 rural post offices then added 21 to bring the total post offices proposed to be closed in Nebraska to 111. The Postal Service proposed the closing as part of its effort to stem a flow of red ink now totaling $8.5 million annually. Mail volume has dropped by 43 billion pieces, a 20% decline as Americans switch to email and online bill paying.
Nelson says the proposal to close so many rural post offices would highly inconvenience rural Nebraska residents.
“I don’t want to become the Postmaster General and come up with all the ideas, but I think it’s up to the Postmaster General and those associated with those decisions and the making of those decisions to at least consider other options,” Nelson tells reporters in a conference call.
Nelson says the Postal Service needs to consider modernizing its methods, not cutting its services.
“We ought to be looking for ways to improve service to be more competitive and they can do it in such a way that they can reduce their cost as well, their per-unit cost,” according to Nelson. “That has not been in their algorithm as far as I can tell.”
The legislation establishes a process the Postal Service must use to close post offices. It makes it more difficult to close post offices or processing centers. The bill prohibits the Postal Service from canceling Saturday delivery for at least two years. The bill creates a new position, Chief Innovation Officer, to move the Postal Service toward modernization. It also would create a Strategic Advisory Commission to suggest moves to shore up the Postal Service’s troubled finances.
Sen. Mike Johanns voted against the measure.
“I hoped this bill would be improved through amendments, but at the end of the day it is still a government-centered solution that, like most government fixes, won’t work,” Johanns said in a written statement released by his office. “We have to be honest about the dire financial situation the U.S. Postal Service is facing and this bill doesn’t do that. It continues the troubling trend of kicking the can down the road, leaves taxpayers shouldering the burden, and ties the hands of the USPS – all while trying to convince everyone it’s a solution. The Postal Service needs meaningful reform to continue its mission, and this legislation simply doesn’t do that.”
Johanns criticizes the bill for a provision that transfers $11 billion from the federal retirement system to keep the USPS from going bankrupt, which he says isn’t a long-term solution.