Budget deficit higher in October than a year ago

The federal government ran a higher deficit in October than it did a year ago but only because it had to send out benefit payments early. 

The Treasury Department reported on Thursday a $121.7 billion deficit in the first month of the fiscal year, up $31.1 billion from a year ago.

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But the bigger deficit can mostly be attributed to a $41 billion in scheduled November benefit payments that had to go out last month because Nov. 1 fell on a Saturday.

Treasury also said that tax receipts were probably about $4 billion short because of another calendar quirk — October started on a weekend.

The deficit hit a record-high $1.4 trillion in 2009 but with jobs growth and fiscal tightening, last year's deficit fell to $483.3 billion, the smallest since 2008.

The Congressional Budget Office is projecting a slightly better $469 billion shortfall for the 2015 fiscal year. 

After that, deficits are set to rise, giving the House and Senate congressional majorities a tough task over the next two years in trying to rein in spending while managing costs of Social Security and Medicare programs. 

October receipts totaled $212.7 billion, up 6.9 percent from a year ago. Spending totaled $334.4 billion, 15.5 percent higher than a year ago, largely affected by the shift in benefit payments, the report showed.