With some parliamentary maneuvering, the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors has apparently avoided the need to raise postage rates sooner than it wanted.
A key deadline for the rumored hurry-up rate hikes passed today when the Consumer Price Index numbers for November were announced.
As the board drew close to losing its quorum last week (because of -- what else? -- Congressional inaction) there was talk the governors were preparing rate hikes that would be announced this week and implemented in the spring. (See USPS May Seek a Rate Hike After All.) That appeared to be the last chance for the governors to raise rates until Congress got around to approving new governors.
But a Federal Register filing published yesterday revealed that the governors came up with another plan: While they still had a quorum, they passed a resolution naming the remaining members to a Temporary Emergency Committee that will "will exercise those reserved Board powers necessary for operational continuity until such time as sufficient members are available to enable a quorum of the Board to convene."
Assuming the resolution withstands any legal challenges, it means Congressional deadlock won't prevent USPS from increasing rates when it chooses. That appears likely to be in a few months, after an appeals court rules whether the 4.3% "exigency" surcharge on most postage should be increased or extended.
A rate hike approved before the board lost its quorum would have to have been filed prior to today's CPI release, which caused a recalculation of the inflation-based cap on rate increases.
The Postal Regulatory Commission now calculates that an increase based on the change in CPI during the past 12 months would be capped at 1.685%. But the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers puts the true cap at 1.965%, because there hasn't been a CPI-based increase for 15 months. And it projects that, despite plummeting gasoline prices, the inflation-based cap is likely to keep inching up for the next few months.