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Senators Propose Changes to Help Rescue the USPS

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Stressing that the United States Postal Service will run out of money to deliver mail by next summer, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a proposal to help rescue the postal service.

“We are not crying wolf here,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Wednesday. “The postal service literally will not survive unless comprehensive, legislative and administrative reforms are undertaken.”

Along with Collins, Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., revealed their plan -- actually a melding of two plans -- Wednesday at a news conference. It calls for a fundamental restructuring of the postal service, including cost-saving changes that will affect individual and business mailers and USPS employees.

“Too many people rely on the federal postal service for us to sit back and allow it to collapse,” Lieberman said.

He said many Americans still use the service despite a 22-percent drop in volume since 2007 blamed on electronic communication and the economic downturn that has “swept our postal service into a financial death spiral.”

The postal service would receive a repayment of nearly $7 billion from the Office of Personnel Management because of overpayments that the postal service has made to the federal employees retirement system.

The senators call for a reduction of the number of people who work for the post offices -- by offering a “compassionate buyout program” for potential retirees that could reduce the number of employees by 100,000 workers, saving $8 billion a year.

The proposal also calls for reducing the number of postal facilities in the country, including post offices and distribution centers, and alters the delivery schedules.

The proposal would prohibit the implementation of a reduction to five-day delivery for the next two years. At that point, five-day delivery could only be implemented if the Postal Regulatory Commission verifies GAO assessment that the postal service has implemented cost-cutting reforms and savings are still not sufficient.

“What we want to do is ensure that slashing or eliminating Saturday service is truly the last resort, not the first option,” Collins said.

The bill also calls for workers compensation and health care savings reforms.

“Without taking controversial steps like these, the postal service simply is not going to make it,” Lieberman said, noting the proposal is sure to generate controversy. “We must act quickly to avoid a postal service collapse.”

The legislation was introduced Wednesday and the full Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee will mark it up next Wednesday.

The House of Representatives has consistently opposed the proposed approach, likening it to a bailout. Members are working on their own bill.

“It’s not a bailout. It is the result of a legal analysis that everyone agrees with, that this was, in fact, an overpayment by the postal service and it is entitled to receive that money back,” Lieberman said in defense of the Senate proposal. “This is money they are owed. It is not a bailout.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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