More free­dom to raise stamp prices?

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Hope Yen

WASH­ING­TON» It may be time to stock up on For­ever stamps.

Reg­u­la­tors ap­pear likely to ac­cept the fi­nan­cially be­lea­guered Postal Ser­vice’s re­quest for more free­dom to raise the price of mail­ing let­ters. It would be the big­gest change in the Postal Ser­vice’s pric­ing sys­tem in nearly a half-cen­tury, al­low­ing stamp prices to rise be­yond the rate of in­fla­tion.

Af­ter a 10-year re­view, the Postal Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion could make its de­ci­sion next month. It might limit how high prices could go, but the cost of a first-class stamp, now 49 cents, could jump. It’s not known how much.

Fi­nan­cial an­a­lysts praise the plan, but it has raised the ire of the mail-or­der in­dus­try, which could pay mil­lions more for send­ing items like pre­scrip­tion drugs and mag­a­zines and pass the costs onto con­sumers.

The Postal Ser­vice is try­ing to stay fi­nan­cially afloat as it seeks to in­vest bil­lions in new de­liv­ery trucks to get pack­ages more nim­bly to Amer­i­can homes.

An in­de­pen­dent agency of gov­ern­ment, the Postal Ser­vice has lost money for 10 con­sec­u­tive years. While on­line shop­ping has led to years of dou­ble-digit growth in its pack­age-de­liv­ery busi­ness, it hasn’t off­set de­clines in first-class mail. Over­all mail vol­ume, which makes up more than twothirds of postal rev­enue, dropped 27 per­cent dur­ing the past decade as peo­ple rely more on email and on­line bill pay­ments.

Congress’ fail­ure to ad­dress the Postal Ser­vice’s un­der­ly­ing fi­nan­cial woes, such as oner­ous re­quire­ments to pre-fund re­tiree health ben­e­fits, has left the com­mis­sion more likely to em­brace the re­quest for more pric­ing free­dom. The Postal Ser­vice has ruled out clos­ing post of­fices and end­ing Satur­day de­liv­ery to re­duce costs.

“We are call­ing for ac­tion from Congress, but we’ll do what we have to, based on the re­al­ity of what is,” Robert Taub, the Repub­li­can chair­man of the reg­u­la­tory com­mis­sion, said.

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