Baldwin touts postal reform, timber management during Domtar visit

ROTHSCHILD— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin visited the Domtar paper mill in Rothschild on Tuesday to discuss how the health of the U.S. Postal Service directly impacts Wisconsin’s paper industry.

Baldwin sits on the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the panel tasked with creating a plan to keep the U.S. Postal Service viable and profitable.

“We had a real debate in committee on this,” Baldwin said. “I tried to really make the point as a senator from the state of Wisconsin that our resource of timber — paper making, printing and mailing — means that our state’s economy is intrinsically intertwined with the health of the post office.”

Baldwin said the state has about 200,000 timber and paper-related jobs and about 12,000 postal workers.

“If the post office is doing poorly, it’s going to really affect our state’s economy in ways that it wouldn’t necessarily in other states,” Baldwin said.

Domtar Corp. regional public affairs manager Craig Timm called postal rates a “very serious issue” for Domtar.

“About one-third of what we produce throughout Domtar actually makes its way through the mail at some point,” Timm said. “That’s a lot.”

Baldwin said part of the postal business is competitive — such as the competition with FedEx and UPS for package delivery. The other part of the business, which includes mailbox letter delivery, is a monopoly and should be treated as such.

“It strikes me that (the Postal Service) should be more like a business in the competitive part of their business, but they should be well-regulated and effectively overseen on the monopoly part of their business,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said Congress complicated the issue several years ago by requiring the Postal Service, unlike their competitors, to prefund certain accounts for retirees and future retirees. Prior to 2006, the USPS operated under a pay-as-you-go model for retiree health care funding. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 required the Postal Service to prefund its benefit obligations.

“So part of what we’re doing is not just looking at the rate-setting issue and allowing them to charge enough for stamps and postage to be in the black, but also relieving them of the burden of some really unreasonable prefunding requirements that with fluctuating interest rates may never be necessary,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said the bill passed by the committee Feb. 6 was an improvement to the original proposal, but in her opinion, it still needs work.

“We made a step forward, now we want to make another step forward as it goes to the Senate floor, if indeed it does,” Baldwin said. “It’s still a controversial bill because it has a lot more than just the rate-setting language that I’m talking about.”

Baldwin also addressed the timber management issue during her visit, saying the increase in severe wildfires in the western U.S. has shifted federal dollars from forest management to forest fire suppression.

“As long as this continues, we are going to fall further and further behind in the management of our forests and producing healthy forests that have a better prospect of avoiding forest fires,” Baldwin said. “It can spiral out of control if we don’t intervene.”

Source: Wausau Daily Herald