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Dec. Budget Surplus Trims Deficit

January 24, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A $13.6 billion surplus in December helped trim the federal deficit for the first three months of fiscal 1998 by one-third below the comparable period a year earlier.

Last month’s surplus compares with an $18.5 billion surplus in the previous December. The budget shortfall for the first quarter of the fiscal year, October through December, was $39.7 billion, down 33 percent from 1997, the Treasury Department said Friday.

That puts the 1998 deficit on track to come in under last year’s 23-year low of $22 billion. President Clinton plans to send Congress a balanced budget _ the first in 30 years _ on Feb. 2.

December’s surplus would have been even greater had the government not sent January checks for Social Security, military pay and veterans benefits on Dec. 31 because of the New Year’s Day holiday.

But the payment shift will cut spending in January and the government anticipates surpluses in February and March as Americans mail in tax payments.

As recently as late summer, the administration was projecting a $58 billion deficit in 1998 but robust economic growth and big stock market gains in 1997 are generating an unexpected tax windfall.

In December, receipts totaled $168 billion, compared with spending of $154.4 billion. The biggest spending categories were interest on the public debt, $67.7 billion; Social Security, $35.6 billion; the Department of Health and Human Services, including Medicare and Medicaid, $33 billion; and the military, $25.8 billion.

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