Postmaster General talks budget cuts

August 14, 2012 Updated Aug 14, 2012 at 6:45 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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August 14, 2012 Updated Aug 14, 2012 at 6:45 PM EDT


Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - The US Postal Service delivers fewer and fewer pieces of mail these days, thanks to the internet. That's helping to create a huge fiscal crisis.

However, local post office workers are not on board with the ideas the Postmaster General has for cutting costs.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahue came to the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center for an event honoring local heroic postal workers.

However, Donahue didn't exactly receive the warmest welcome once his speech turned towards budget cuts.

Donahue told the crowd "everybody's got to live a little if we want to resolve this going forward." The crowd replies with jeers.

Last year, Donahue proposed shutting down the William Street Mail Processing Center, which employs 700 people. Its future remains in question.

Jeanette Dwyer, the President of the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, said "closing post offices, closing facilities, putting people out of work -- that's not the answer. The answer is getting people to work and getting the economy back."

The idea is still baffling for Representative Brian Higgings (D-NY 27). He explains "two years ago the USPS awarded that facility with it's gold standard for cross-effectiveness and efficiency. Why would you close it? You should be holding it up as a national model."

Higgins says it would hurt services because "buffalo is an entry point for all mail coming in from Canada. It processes 60 million pieces of mail a week. It doesn't make sense!"

Donahoe and Higgins are on odds on how to make cuts, but both say Congress needs to pass legislation to keep post offices up and running.

Donahoe is asking Congress to decrease the amount of money that the postal service banks to pay for a pre-funded workers healthcare program from $5.5 billion down to $1.5 billion.

So far, the Senate has passed a resolution. However, the House of Representatives has not.

Before attending the event, Donahoe toured the William Street office.

He told the media "we'll see as we mentioned before, we have to look to reduce some of the overhead and footprints. We don't need as many square feet as we have."

While the post office is safe for now, Donahoe says a regulatory commission probably will not make a final decision until late 2013.

However, it was another cost cutting suggestion that really got postal workers riled up.

Donahoe stated "I know you guys will be mad at me when I say this. We have to deliver mail five days a week." He got more booing from the crowd.

However, depending on the market, Donahue says package delivery would be at six or seven days a week.

The Postmaster General explained "if you think about it, we deliver 30-40 packages on an average day. An average route also serves 600 houses so there's a big difference."

However, union representatives say that's not good enough. Dwyer said "six day delivery is the saving of the postal service. He does not need to cut service to save the postal service. Going to five days is not the answer."

There was a lot of tension between Donahoe and Higgins. Donahoe said the two did not even say hello to each other, despite being seated nearby.

Higgins accused Donahoe of "withholding information" and making "arbitrary decisions." He also called for Donahoe to resign.