Senator Urges House to Pass Senate’s Permanent Rural Protections into Law
(Washington, D.C.) – Montana’s senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus said today he is reserving judgment until he hears from Montanans on the Postal Service’s proposal to cut office hours, but he is skeptical of any plan that is not in line with the spirit of the permanent rural protections he fought for in the Senate’s Postal Reform Bill. Baucus also pointed out that, just like closing rural offices, the proposal to cut hours does not make a dent in the Postal Services’ budget problems.
“I fought hard to get permanent protections in the Postal Reform Bill that will keep Montana post offices open for good, while also putting the Postal Service back on a path to financial security, so the real solution is for the House to do its part and pass this bill. Any plan that unfairly targets rural post offices doesn’t work for me, and this latest idea sounds like horse trading that leaves Montana offices vulnerable in the future and doesn’t address the big picture,” Baucus said.
The Postmaster General has stated that in order to become financially stable, the Postal Service must reduce spending by about $20 billion in the coming years.
The proposed nationwide changes in post office hours is estimated to save only $500 million annually once fully implemented.
The Senate bill puts the Postal Service well on the path toward stability by reducing spending by $19 billion by 2016, according to analysis provided by the Postal Service.
Baucus included protections to keep rural facilities open in the Senate bill, but without action in the House, the Postal Service will be free to shut down any of the 85 Montana offices it has proposed for closure after the moratorium expires on May 15. Last week, Baucus wrote a letter to Postmaster General Donahoe, along with Senator Tester calling for an extension of the current moratorium of post office closures so the House can consider the Senate bill.
Baucus’ amendments in the Senate Bill include:
- A one-year moratorium on the closure of rural post offices;
- Prohibition of closing any post office where another facility is not available within 10 miles driving distance, after the moratorium expires – this prohibits the closure of at least 90 percent of Montana post offices;
- Protections to ensure service standards are protected for seniors, businesses and Montana voters who vote by mail; and
- New service standard requirements that the Postmaster General has confirmed would prohibit the closure of Montana processing facilities that were previously proposed for consolidation – including Wolf Point, Helena and Butte.