From Tonda Rush, NNA General Counsel
National Newspaper Association President Matt Adelman, publisher of the Douglas (Wyomimg) Budget, today announced that a postal reform bill supported by NNA has achieved a sufficient number of both Democrats and Republicans as sponsors and action has been recommended to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Adelman thanked Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., for his leadership in moving HR 2382 to possible action on the House consensus calendar, which is a streamlined process for quick passage of legislation.
“We have worked for more than a decade to lift the burden of prefunding retiree health benefits from the U.S. Postal Service. This one requirement, unique among federal government agencies, has led to the most staggering debt by USPS of any measure we have seen in the more than 100 years that NNA has worked on postal policy. Congress took a big risk in 2006 when it decided to impose this burden. USPS has been unable to pay the obligation, so the debt just keeps mounting.
“Now a wide majority of House members recognize that it is time to rethink the requirement,” Adelman said. “NNA appreciates their attention to the plight of our nation’s universal service network. Community newspapers need for USPS to be stable and effective.”
The obligation imposed in 2006 was for prefunding about $72 billion in anticipated retiree health benefits covering a 75-year time span into the future. The fund has nearly $40 billion in it now, which achieves a higher level of prefunding than the rest of the federal government and more than most private sector businesses with health fund obligations. But USPS announced a decade ago that it could not continue adding to the fund as required if it was to continue delivering the mail.
Adelman noted that some members of Congress have been concerned about the perception that HR 2382 is a bailout of the retiree fund. He said that, on the contrary, the reverse is true.
“I know many in Congress are rightfully concerned about fiscal accountability and about the wide gaps in private sector retirement funding coverage. Some have told our members that they worry the government is going to have to pick up the tab. But this bill won’t create that problem. Rather, it will help to avoid it by helping USPS to keep rates stable and protecting the mail business that it presently has. If we let this problem drift on, it will lead to much higher rates, drive away more mail and put the USPS into an even deeper hole.”
With the assistance of NNA’s Congressional Action Team, HR 2382 now has 292 co-sponsors, from both sides of the aisle.
A companion Senate bill by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) has been introduced this week. The bill is identical to the House bill and is numbered S 2965.