Postal Service Agrees to Rate Rollback for Rural Alaska

The U.S. Postal Service has agreed to rollback its parcel post rate hike for shipments to rural Alaska, according to Senator Mark Begich. In a Senate committee hearing today he added an amendment to a postal reform bill to undo the increase imposed last week for in-state mail to communities not linked by road. But he said he secured a separate commitment from the postmaster general to lower rates immediately, or as soon as the post office can change its machines.

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At the hearing on Thursday, Begich said the increase had unintended consequences for Alaska.

Rural Alaskans rely on parcel post to receive all kinds of goods and merchandise. Begich said Alaskans have been complaining to him that new rates had them paying as much as 50 percent more for delivery.

For large freight deliveries, rural Alaskans benefit from Bypass Mail, an Alaska-only subsidy that costs the Postal Service more than $70 million a year. Nothing in the Postal Reform bill that cleared the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Thursday would change that program.

Still, Begich is claiming credit for saving it. Begich told reporters he has been able to persuade budget hawks like Republican Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and John McCain of Arizona, who two years ago tried to kill it.

A spokesman for Senator John McCain said the Arizona senator still doesn’t support Bypass Mail. Begich warned the program may face stiff opposition in the House.


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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska’s congressional delegation, federal agency decisions that shape life in the 49th state, money in politics and elections. She has deep roots in Alaska and this is her third stint in Washington, a city she has grown to love.

She was born in Anchorage and is a West High graduate. She studied political science at the University of Washington and has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. During graduate school, she moved to Washington to intern as a D.C. correspondent. But for her first real journalism job, she moved back to Alaska to work at the Homer News. She was there for three years before taking a job at the Anchorage Daily News. Over the course of nine years in Anchorage, she covered City Hall, courts, state politics, and Native and rural affairs.

Then, in April 2001, she moved back to Washington to work in McClatchy Newspaper’s D.C. bureau as a correspondent for the Anchorage paper. She stayed in the position for five years.

She took a year off for a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio.

When a vacancy occurred in APRN’s one-person Washington bureau, she jumped at the opportunity. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013.

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz