Apr 12, 2:50 PM EDT

US budget deficit bulges in March due to calendar hitch

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal government ran a budget deficit in March that was sharply higher than a year ago, largely because of a hitch in the calendar. Through the first half of this budget year, the deficit is running almost 15 percent higher than the same period a year ago.

The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that the deficit in March totaled $176.2 billion, compared to $108 billion in March of last year. A big part of that increase reflected $42 billion in April benefit payments that were shifted into March because April 1 fell on a Saturday this year.

Through the first six months of this budget year, the deficit totals $526.9 billion, up 14.7 percent from last year's six-month total of $459.4 billion.

The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that this year's deficit will decline 4.6 percent to $559 billion when the budget year ends on Sept. 30. That would compare to a 2016 deficit of $585.6 billion.

Through the first six months of this budget year, government receipts total $1.47 trillion, a slight 0.2 percent above last year, while outlays total $2 trillion, 3.3 percent higher than spending for the same period a year ago.

The CBO's estimate for the deficit this year is based on current law remaining unchanged. President Donald Trump has called for a program of tax cuts for individuals and businesses and increased government spending in such areas as defense and repairing the nation's aging infrastructure.

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