Postal Service seeking to raise stamp prices


However you buy your stamps, you'll probably be paying more this January, under proposed U.S. Postal Service rate increases unveiled today.

Better start stocking up on your first-class “Forever” stamps because they will likely cost a penny more in January, under a U.S. Postal Service regulatory filing today. The proposed increase to 45 cents is part of a package that would boost the price of a postcard from 29 cents to 32 cents and also raise the cost of sending international letters, standard mail and periodicals, the agency said in a news release. (For a fuller rundown, check out this fact sheet.)

Under a 2006 law, the Postal Service can raise rates relatively easily as long as the cumulative increase doesn’t exceed the inflation rate as measured by the Consumer Price Index, which in this case is 2.1 percent, according to the Postal Service.  The proposed increases were filed today with the Postal Regulatory Commission, a five-member oversight body. The PRC now has 45 days to review them to make sure they don’t violate the inflation cap, USPS spokesman Dave Partenheimer said.

Assuming the commission gives its OK, the increases would take effect Jan. 22 and would be the first for a first-class stamp since May 2009. All told, the rate changes will generate about $888 million in new annual revenue, Partenheimer said.

“The overall average price increase is small and is needed to help address our current financial crisis,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement. “We continue to take actions within our control to increase revenue in other ways and to aggressively cut costs. To return to sound financial footing, we urgently need enactment of comprehensive, long-term legislation to provide the Postal Service with a more flexible business model.”

If anyone’s wondering, by the way, the Postal Service’s appeal of a PRC smackdown in last year’s “exigent” rate increase case is still technically alive.

In that case–completely separate from what was proposed today–the Postal Service sought to raise rates beyond the inflation cap on the grounds that the recession had dealt an extraordinary blow to mail volumes. After the commission unanimously rejected that argument in September 2010, the Postal Service appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which sent the case back to the PRC this May.

There it remains; earlier this month, however, the Postal Service asked for a stay of all proceedings until Dec. 15.  Proposals by the Obama administration and members of Congress could change the ratemaking landscape, USPS lawyers wrote.

“Obviously, it would  be grossly premature to attempt to anticipate what, if anything, might come out of these initiatives,” they said. “Yet by the same token, neither would it seem prudent to ignore these developments entirely.”




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