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White House releases budget, forecasts a decade of mounting debt

Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration proposed a spending plan on Monday that projects deficits as far as the eye can see, giving up the longtime Republican goal of a balanced budget to champion a spending plan replete with cash for a host of military programs and some domestic ones the president's supporters might admire.

The budget calls for about $716 billion in annual defense spending, more than $100 billion above the level Trump requested last year. Add in the tax cut Republicans pushed through in December and the extra spending Congress approved just last week, and the result is a flood of red ink projected to send the national debt ever higher.

Trump's budget anticipates deficits throughout the next 10 years even if Congress were to approve some $3 trillion in cuts over that same time period that he's proposing for a wide range of federal programs. Both parties already rejected most of those cuts last year and have shown little interest in pursuing them.

The deficits persist even though the White House is forecasting extremely optimistic levels of economic growth. If growth falls short of those projections -- most economists think it will -- deficits would be higher still.

As a result, the budget marks something of a milestone -- the Trump administration's abandonment of the quest for budget balance that the Republican Party has claimed as a guiding light for years, at least rhetorically.

In reality, deficits have often soared under Republican presidents as the party has put cutting taxes ahead of balancing budgets on its list of priorities. In the past, however, Republican administrations have taken pains to at least come up with a budget that would balance on paper.

The budget unveiling led off with the administration's infrastructure plan, released with a statement from the president promising to build gleaming new roads, bridges and highways "all across our land."

Despite the bold promise, the plan involves a relatively small amount of new federal spending -- $200 billion offset, at least partially, by cuts to other programs. The administration claims the new money would spur some $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments from state, local and private sources, but that would depend to a large degree on the willingness of local and state officials to raise taxes for transportation projects.

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"Washington no longer will be a roadblock to progress," Trump told a group of state and local officials gathered at the White House.

The budget includes new money to fight the opioid epidemic, bolster medical care for veterans and build a wall on the southwest border.

The budget proposes paying for increases in the military budget with $65 billion in reductions from the non-defense discretionary caps under current law.

Among its many proposed reductions are changes to Medicaid for the poor and elimination of climate change research and other programs at the Environmental Protection Agency.

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