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Federal government posts $55.2 billion budget surplus in January

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WASHINGTON — The federal government recorded a budget surplus in January of $55.2 billion, helped by a timing quirk that shifted benefit payments to December.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the surplus marked an improvement from January 2015 when the government recorded a small deficit of $17.5 billion. Part of the improvement reflected the fact that $42 billion in benefit checks were sent out in December because the regular payment period fell on a weekend.

For the first four months of this budget year, the deficit totaled $160.4 billion, below last year's deficit of $194.2 billion for the same period.

Both the Obama administration and the Congressional Budget Office are forecasting this year's deficit to top last year's imbalance of $439.1 billion.

Obama, in the new budget he released Tuesday, projects that the deficit will jump to $616 billion this year while the CBO is forecasting a deficit of $544 billion. The CBO projects that the deficit will keep rising and top $1 trillion again in 2022 as the costs of Social Security and Medicare climb with the retirement of the baby boomers.

Through the first four months of this budget year, which began Oct. 1, government receipts total $1.08 trillion, an increase of 3.2 percent over the same period a year ago. Government outlays total $1.24 trillion, down a slight 0.1 percent from the same period for the 2015 budget year.

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