Fiscal 2017: One Month Down, $46 Billion in Debt, According to CBO

It may not be the results people are awaiting on Election Day Eve, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office made its call Monday on the federal deficit for the first month of Fiscal 2017: $46 billion.

The actual number will be reported in the Treasury Department’s monthly financial statement set for release Nov. 10, but the CBO, which makes its projections in part by following the Treasury’s daily cash statements, has a record of coming within only a few billion dollars of Treasury’s number. When the government spends almost $4 trillion annually, a miss of only a few billion is considered pretty close.

The Treasury Building

“The government recorded a deficit of $46 billion in October, CBO estimates, about $91 billion less than the shortfall recorded in the same month last year. However, almost all of that difference stems from shifts in the timing of payments because regularly scheduled payment dates fell on a weekend,” the CBO said in its monthly statement. “If not for those timing shifts, the deficit in October 2016 would have been $11 billion less than it was in October 2015.”

The FY 2016 deficit of $587 billion marked the first uptick in the annual deficit since 2011. Deficit hawks have worried that the issue has been overshadowed in the current presidential campaign and any steps President Barack Obama’s successor takes to deal with the deficit will be tougher politically because neither candidate has talked much about it in the campaign.

“Rising annual deficits are a long-term challenge that will confront all federal policymakers elected tomorrow. With the economy showing positive signs on employment, now is the right time to phase in commonsense deficit reduction policies rather than waiting for an economic downturn that could exacerbate the situation,” said Shai Akabas, director of fiscal policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

For fiscal 2017, the CBO has projected only a slight rise in the deficit, to $594 billion. The Office of Management and Budget within the White House in July projected a far lower $441 2017 deficit. But that number also assumes the policies in the budget Obama sent to Congress were enacted.