• Monday, October 20, 2014

Obama releases $3.5tn budget for FY 2015

Reuters
US President Barack Obama makes remarks on the budget during a visit to Powell Elementary School in Washington Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
US President Barack Obama makes remarks on the budget during a visit to Powell Elementary School in Washington Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

US President Barack Obama released his fiscal year 2015 budget request to Congress on Tuesday, and lawmakers will promptly ignore it.

But the annual ritual highlights his policy priorities for the coming year and serves as a Democratic Party manifesto as Democrats seek to draw a contrast with Republicans ahead of congressional elections in November.

The budget plan covers less than a third of the approximately $3.5 trillion the government is likely to spend next year. The rest will be doled out automatically through federal benefits programs that mostly care for the elderly and poor, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Obama outlined how he would parcel out $1.014 trillion on government agencies' discretionary programs ranging from the military to national parks.

The level, barely above this year's spending cap of $1.012 trillion, was set by a recent budget deal and forces Obama to make some difficult cuts to fund the programs he wants. If the president wants to spend more, he will have to sell Congress on the idea of raising additional revenues.

The following are some of president's spending and tax proposals:

DEFENSE SPENDING

The president wants to shrink the US Army to its lowest level since before World War Two, eliminate the popular A-10 aircraft and reduce military benefits. The Pentagon's budget for the 2015 fiscal year beginning in October is an estimated $496 billion, about the same amount as the current fiscal year.

DIPLOMACY AND FOREIGN AID

The Obama administration requested $46.22 billion to fund its diplomacy and foreign aid for fiscal 2015, a drop from this year's estimated $46.81 billion, largely reflecting reduced spending in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

The underlying base budget for the State Department and Agency for International Development will hold roughly steady at $40.3 billion for fiscal 2015, which begins on Oct. 1, from the estimated level in the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

But the budget for "Overseas Contingency Operations" - funds set aside for exceptional needs - will drop to $5.91 billion from an estimated $6.52 billion, chiefly because of declines in spending on Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, a State Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS

Obama wants a four-year, $302 billion plan to repair deteriorating roads and bridges and fund transit projects. He has said he would raise $150 billion in new money by ending some tax breaks for businesses as part of a corporate tax reform that would also lower tax rates.

Democrats and Republicans agree on the need to spruce up the nation's surface transportation system, but disagree on how to fund the work.

MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY

The president wants to "fully realize" his plan to build 45 manufacturing innovation centers. These are hubs that take advantage of universities and businesses located close to one another to share technology and ideas before products reach the commercial phase.

Obama has announced four such centers so far.

OIL AND GAS ROYALTIES

Through the Interior Department, Obama proposed changes to the oversight of oil and gas development on federal lands and waters, including royalty reforms and improved revenue collection, to save an estimated $2.5 billion over a decade.

EDUCATION

Obama renewed his call for universal pre-kindergarten and expanding the Head Start program, which provides early childhood education for low-income families.

The new budget seeks a total of $68.6 billion through a raise in federal tobacco taxes to vastly expand access to preschool, make all levels of education more accessible and affordable and to connect nearly all students to broadband and high-speed wireless Internet.

HEALTH SERVICES

The president sought $77.1 billion for the department that runs Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and biomedical research.

The proposal for the Department of Health and Human Services includes some items aimed at Democratic voters: training to help schools detect mental illness early, extra access to HIV treatment and prevention services and funds to train primary care doctors.

GUN CONTROL

Almost a year after the Senate defeated gun control legislation prompted by the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre, Obama proposed spending $182 million to address mass shootings. That includes school safety research, a $22 million boost for the agency that inspects gun shops and funds for technology to prevent unauthorized users from firing a gun.

TRADE

Obama's budget calls for an extra $15 million to accelerate efforts to fix unfair trade practices and remove barriers to U.S. exports, and he wants another $20 million to expand SelectUSA, the agency charged with drawing more foreign investment to the United States.

He also requested an extra $9 million to smooth reforms to the export licensing procedure for sensitive products, such as defense exports.

IMF VOTING REFORMS

Obama wants Congress to approve a shift that would move some $63 billion from an International Monetary Fund crisis fund to its general accounts. The White House has asked for this change, which would make good on a 2010 commitment, for the past year.

INTERNATIONAL FOOD AID

Obama proposed reforms to the nation's largest global food aid program that could allow some 2 million more people to be helped each year. Funding would become more flexible and could be used in part to buy food near crisis areas or to provide cash transfers or vouchers.

SWAPS OVERSIGHT

The president proposed a smaller boost to the budget of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the primary derivatives regulator, than he sought for the cash-strapped agency last year.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank law charged the CFTC with bringing the vast swaps market under federal oversight. The White House said its latest budget proposal would allow the agency to carry out its new duties but did not explain the more moderate request.

Obama did ask for more money this year for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has more employees.

CROP INSURANCE

Just weeks after passage of a five-year farm bill, Obama proposed cuts to crop insurance subsidies paid to insurance companies and farmers. Modifying the format of the program would yield a projected savings of $14 billion over a decade, the White House said.

MINIMUM WAGE

Obama's budget calls on Congress to lift the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and index it to inflation going forward. The president already signed an executive order setting that as the minimum for federal contract workers.

The White House budget also proposed a 1 percent pay raise for all federal workers.

EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT

Obama called for doubling the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers. The program has bipartisan support because it rewards low-income people who work.

The EITC is one of the most popular anti-poverty programs in the United States, but it is far more beneficial for workers with children than those without.

OVERSEAS TAX PROPOSAL

The administration wants new limits on overseas tax avoidance by corporations by seeking to prevent them from playing one country's tax rules for certain securities against another's.

At the moment, big corporations must pay the top 35 percent corporate tax rate on foreign profits, but not until those profits are brought into the country. Many lawmakers argue this structure encourages companies to make job-creating investments in foreign countries rather than in the United States.

Obama's budget proposes a total of $12.5 billion for the Internal Revenue Service, up from $11.3 billion allocated in the fiscal 2014 budget.

COINS

Obama floated the idea of using cheaper metals to make pennies and nickels. The Treasury Department has been reviewing the coins' production, which has not changed in decades.

Obama has proposed similar reviews in the past but the measures stalled. The budget does not identify potential cost savings, but it lists the rise of electronic commerce as a reason to review the coins' makeup and distribution.

Published: 1:48 pm Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Last modified: 8:55 pm Wednesday, March 05, 2014

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