WASHINGTON — The Gramm-Rudman budget-balancing law and a shortfall in revenues may force the U.S. Postal Service to raise the price of stamps earlier than it had planned, the nation's No. 2 postal official said Wednesday.
Jackie A. Strange, deputy postmaster general, said in an interview that in fiscal 1986 the Postal Service faces a $32-million cut under the Gramm-Rudman law and that the quasi-public agency lost another $65 million because Congress did not put a proposed rate increase for nonprofit mailers into effect at the beginning of the fiscal year last fall. Instead, the rate hike became effective Jan. 1.
Strange said that, if the budget cuts go into effect, "we will be forced into filing earlier than we had hoped we would file" for a postage rate increase on all classes of mail. However, because such requests are so complicated, she said, it would take about 18 months from the time it was made to the time that the Postal Rate Commission could approve it.
Strange said that new Postmaster General Albert V. Casey is meeting with President Reagan's budget officials to try to stave off the Gramm-Rudman cuts.
Casey, appointed last month, has said he intends to act only as an interim postmaster general until a permanent successor can be found. Thus, many of the changes he envisions probably will be carried out by Strange, who began her postal career in 1946.
Strange, asserting that the Postal Service's efforts to improve its finances will be stymied by the Gramm-Rudman law unless postage rates are raised, said: "We want to support the President (on cutting the deficit) but we also want to be realistic."
Although the Postal Service has a $466-million surplus so far this fiscal year, that figure reflects the Christmas season, the most profitable part of the year, Strange said. The slow summer months will deplete the surplus, she said. The agency lost $251 million last fiscal year.
PROPOSED CHANGES AT POSTAL SERVICE ----Move up Express mail next-day guarantee to morning instead of afternoon delivery. ----Add 7,750 Express Mail boxes to the existing 8,100 nationwide. ----Create study groups to look into Postal Service procedures, new technology, etc. ----Sell the service's Cessna jet, worth $1.7 million, and shift official travel to commericial airlines.