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Nation

Deficit running nearly twice last year's pace

| Saturday, April 19, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government ran up a deficit of $252.6 billion in the first six months of the 2003 budget year, nearly twice the total for the same period a year earlier.

The latest figures, released Friday by the Treasury Department, highlighted the government's deteriorating fiscal situation. Record deficits are forecast this year and next.

The total deficit so far this fiscal year, from October through March, compares with a shortfall of $131.9 billion a year earlier.

Revenues were down by 6.1 percent to $825.2 billion for the six months in comparison to the same period a year earlier. That partly reflected lower tax revenue from the listless economy.

Individual income tax payments totaled $372.1 billion, representing an 6.8 percent decline from the previous year. Corporate tax payments plunged by 43 percent to $44.6 billion. That sharp drop reflected in part the impact of business tax cuts enacted last year and weaker profits, the Congressional Budget Office said.

Federal spending for the six months totaled $1.08 trillion, a 6.6 percent increase from the corresponding period in fiscal 2002.

The biggest spending categories so far this budget year are: Social Security, $249.3 billion; programs of the Health and Human Services Department, including Medicare and Medicaid, $246.5 billion; military, $180.9 billion; interest on the public debt, $160.6 billion.

For the entire 2002 budget year, which ended Sept. 30, the government ran up a deficit of $157.8 billion, ending four consecutive years of surpluses.

The Bush administration has blamed the return of deficits on lingering effects of the 2001 recession and the costs of fighting terrorism at home and abroad. Democrats say a major cause of the red ink has been Bush's 10-year $1.35 trillion tax cut and what they contend are bad economic policies being pursued by the administration.

For the month of March, the government produced a deficit of $58.7 billion. That was based on revenues of $120.4 billion and outlays of $179.1 billion. The deficit for March, however, was smaller than the shortfall of $64.2 billion recorded for the same month last year.

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