WASHINGTON — The federal budget deficit will hit $486 billion this year, nearly matching the lowest shortfall of President Barack Obama's term in office, according to projections released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The deficit projection is slightly larger than one made by the agency in January. The change was mainly because of increased spending on student loans, Medicare and Medicaid, the budget office said.
The forecast includes mixed signals for Congress. Over the next decade, annual budget deficits will be smaller than previously thought because spending on private health insurance is expected to grow at slower rate, reducing the expected costs of Obama's health care law.
Beyond the next decade, however, deficits will soar again as more baby boomers retire and start receiving Social Security and Medicare, the government health insurance program for older Americans. In 2025, the budget office says the annual deficit will once again hit $1 trillion, unless Congress acts.
The annual deficit topped $1 trillion in each of Obama's first four years in office, including a record $1.4 trillion in 2009.
The federal budget deficit became a big issue during Obama's early years in office. In 2011, Obama and congressional Republicans struck a deal that resulted in significant spending cuts at many government agencies. At the start of 2013, Obama persuaded Congress to further address the deficit by raising taxes on top earners.
The deficit dipped to $485 billion in the budget year that ended last September.
Congress' Republican-run budget committees will soon start crafting their own spending blueprints for fiscal 2016, which starts on Oct. 1.
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