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updated 3/29/2010 2:50:24 PM ET 2010-03-29T18:50:24

The U.S. Postal Service would cut Saturday mail delivery starting in the first half of 2011 under a plan the agency will give its regulator tomorrow.

The Postal Service, which forecasts a $238 billion budget deficit by 2020, says it would save about $3.3 billion in the first year from eliminating deliveries on one day and $5.1 billion a year by 2020.

“Given the fact that we’re facing such a huge deficit, we’d like to move as quickly as possible,” Postmaster General John Potter told reporters today in Washington.

The Postal Service will file its five-day delivery proposal with the Postal Regulatory Commission in Washington tomorrow. It is also seeking permission from the U.S. Congress, which requires delivery to all U.S. addresses six days a week.

The agency proposes to keep open local offices on Saturdays and continue processing and transporting mail during the weekends after dropping deliveries to homes and businesses.

The Postal Service said reducing deliveries, eliminating the equivalent of 40,000 full-time jobs, would help it return to solvency as mail volumes erode because customers switch to electronic communication. The Postal Service also is seeking to expand its retail offerings, reduce its workforce through attrition and change a requirement that it pre-fund its retiree health care costs.

The commission has 90 days to review the proposal and issue a non-binding opinion, Potter said. “As with all actions by the Postal Regulatory Commission, we give them great consideration,” he said.

A survey conducted in August for the Postal Service by Maritz Research in St. Louis found 68 percent of 2,200 residential and small-business customers favored five-day delivery, and more than half the businesses said Saturday delivery “is unimportant.”

Copyright © 2012 Bloomberg L.P.All rights reserved.

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