WASHINGTON — The federal government’s budget deficit rose sharply in March, pushing the deficit for the first six months of this budget year above the same period a year ago.
The Treasury Department says the deficit for March totaled $108 billion. That marks the biggest March deficit in four years and was more than double the imbalance in March 2015.
The large jump from a year ago reflected calendar shifts, which had made the 2015 deficit look smaller because $36 billion in benefit payments were shifted into February.
Through the first six months of this budget year that began on Oct. 1, the deficit totals $461 billion. That represents an increase of 4.9 percent from the same period a year ago. The Congressional Budget is forecasting a higher deficit for the full year.
The Congressional Budget is forecasting that the deficit for the full 2016 budget year will total $534 billion, an increase of 21.9 percent from the 2015 deficit of $439 billion, which had been the smallest deficit in eight years.
So far this budget year, government receipts total $1.476 trillion, up 4 percent from the same period a year ago. Government spending totals $1.937 trillion, 4.2 percent higher than the first half of 2015.
The CBO is projecting that without any changes in tax or spending policies, the deficit will keep growing over the next decade and will once again top $1 trillion annually beginning in 2022. The CBO forecasts the annual deficits will total $9.3 trillion over the next decade. Much of the increase in deficits over the next decade will reflect higher costs for Social Security and Medicare as millions of baby boomers retire.
In December, Congress approved a budget package that increased spending by $1.14 trillion this year and will provide $680 billion in tax cuts over the coming decade. The agreement was part of a compromise between Republicans and the Obama administration.