Associated PressWASHINGTON (AP) - It soon could cost 49 cents to mail a letter.The postal Board of Governors said Wednesday it wants to raise the price of a first-class stamp by 3 cents, citing the agency's "precarious financial condition" and the uncertain prospects for postal overhaul legislation in Congress."Of the options currently available to the Postal Service to align costs and revenues, increasing postage prices is a last resort that reflects extreme financial challenges," board chairman Mickey Barnett wrote customers.The rate proposal must be approved by the independent Postal Regulatory Commission. If the commission accepts it, the increase would become effective Jan. 26.Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn introduced a bill last month designed to allow the Post Office to cut costs. The bill has not been passed into law, and Sen. Coburn says Congress needs to take action to fix the postal service's continued financial problems."The Board of Governors is absolutely right to exercise its fiduciary responsibility to preserve the viability of the Postal Service absent Congressional action, but the issues facing Postal Service require a comprehensive long-term legislative solution," Coburn said in a statement to KTUL.com."I am hopeful both the House and Senate committees and the Administration continue to move forward in supporting bipartisan, commonsense reforms to make the Postal Service fiscally solvent."Under federal law the post office cannot raise its prices more than the rate of inflation unless it gets approval from the commission. In seeking the increase, Barnett cited "extraordinary and exceptional circumstances which have contributed to continued financial losses" by the agency.As part of the rate increase request, the cost for each additional ounce of first-class mail would increase a penny to 21 cents while the price of mailing a postcard would rise by a cent, to 34 cents. The cost to mail a letter to an international destination would jump 5 cents to $1.15.Many consumers won't feel the increase immediately. Forever stamps bought before an increase still would cover first-class postage. The price of new forever stamps would be at the higher rate, if approved.The Postal Service also said it would ask for adjustment to bulk mail and package rates in a filing with the commission Thursday. No details were immediately provided.Media and marketing businesses say a big increase in rates could hurt them and lower postal volume and revenues.The post office expects to lose $6 billion this year and is seeking help from Congress to fix its finances.Barnett said the increase, if approved, would generate $2 billion annually in revenue for his agency.The agency last raised postage rates on Jan. 27, including a penny increase in the cost of first-class mail to 46 cents.
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