Once again, Congress is dropping the ball on postal reform. Rather than working on legislation that fixes the crisis it created with the 2006 mandate to pre-fund future retiree health benefits, and rather than formulating smart reforms that will allow the Postal Service to innovate and thrive in the 21st century, Congress instead focuses on counterproductive service cuts. This coming week, we face two new threats to Saturday delivery. Both are distractions from what Congress should be doing to fix the Postal Service.
Highway Trust Fund update
While the House was in recess this week, the noise surrounding temporarily financing the Highway Trust Fund through the elimination of six-day mail delivery hit a fever pitch. When the House returns next week, House Republican leaders are angling to bring their proposal up for floor consideration.
The House Republican leadership proposal, which was announced May 30 by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA), Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Oversight and Government Reform Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA), would eliminate six-day mail delivery to “pay for” a short-term extension of funding for the Highway Trust Fund, to prevent a disruption of highway projects.
The Highway Trust Fund relies on a federal excise tax on gasoline and diesel sales; it’s currently set at 18.4 cents a gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel. The current rates were set in 1993 and have been eroded by inflation ever since. The decline in fuel consumption since 1993, coupled with increased spending on road construction, has resulted in insufficient dedicated tax revenues to support the current level of federal highway spending. The fund is expected to run out of money in August.
The House has been scrambling to find a pay-for to inject a temporary (one-year) infusion of $14 billion to $15 billion in cash into the trust fund before the House leaves for the August recess. House leadership claims that eliminating six-day delivery of mail would generate $10.7 billion over 10 years.
In response to this proposal, which has yet to be officially drafted into legislation, the NALC has been aggressively lobbying pro-six day Republican members of Congress on H. Res. 30, which now has 220 cosponsors from both parties. We are urging members to voice to the House Republican Leadership their opposition to this idea. On the Democratic side, Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Peter Welch (D-VT) began circulating “Dear Colleague” letters urging members from both parties to oppose the leadership proposal.
“It is time for Congress to cease kicking the can down the road by engaging in budgetary gimmicks. Proposing to pay for an on-budget transfer into the Highway Trust Fund with an off-budget cut to the Postal Service fails the laugh test and violates PAYGO and CUTGO Congressional Budget Rules,” stated Connolly in his letter to colleagues. “There is a reason a diverse range of stakeholders, from the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO to Heritage Action for America, strongly oppose raiding the Postal Service as part of a budget gimmick to fund the HTF. These organizations recognize that USPS is not a Piggy Bank, and that off-budget USPS funds simply cannot be used to fund on-budget transfers.”
NALC President Fredric Rolando and the presidents of the three other postal unions sent letters to the House and Senate in opposition of this plan, and we are also working with affiliated transportation and postal unions to oppose this plan.
We encourage all NALC members to contact their House members to shore up opposition to this idea, should it go to the floor of the House next week. The House Republican leadership is scheduled to meet with its caucus on Tuesday to discuss this proposal. We encourage NALC member to ask their Republican House members to oppose this proposal.
Be on the lookout for a call to action early next week, depending on the outcome of this caucus meeting. It’s our hope that a solid number of Republicans will voice their opposition to this plan during that meeting, effectively killing this political gimmick.
Unfortunately, the attack on six-day delivery is not limited to the Highway Trust Fund or pending postal reform legislation. The House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, is working behind the scenes to draft an appropriations bill. For the first time since 1983, they are reportedly considering a base bill that does not include our long-standing six-day appropriations language. At present, the subcommittee had not released its scheduled subcommittee markup, but it could come up as early as next week.
The NALC will continue to lobby appropriators to include this pivotal language in the legislation. As the situation unfolds next week, please be on the lookout for more information from the NALC. We will call on you to act if Congress considers slashing the quality of service provided by the Postal Service.