Obama budget recycles savings ideas

Election-year politics will likely make latest proposals unlikely

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WASHINGTON -- The White House is focusing on re-election themes such as jobs and public works projects in President Barack Obama’s new budget blueprint while relying on familiar but never enacted tax increases on the wealthy and corporations to reduce future deficits after four years of trillion dollar-plus shortfalls.

Obama’s 2013 budget, set for release Monday, is the official start to an election-year budget battle with Republicans. It’s unlikely to result in a genuine effort to address the $15 trillion national debt or the entrenched deficits that keep piling on to it. But it will serve as the Democrats’ party-defining template on this year’s election stakes.

The president’s plan is laden with stimulus-style initiatives: sharp increases for highway construction and school modernization, and a new tax credit for businesses that add jobs. But it avoids sacrifice with only minimal curbs on the unsustainable growth of Medicare even as it proposes a 10-year, $61 billion “financial crisis responsibility fee” on big banks to recoup the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

This budget plan, administration officials say, borrows heavily from Obama’s recommendations in September to a congressional deficit “supercommittee” that was assigned to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings as part of last summer’s default-avoiding budget and debt pact. The panel deadlocked and left Washington to struggle with bruising across-the-board spending cuts that kick in next January.

Even before the budget comes out, House-Senate negotiators were working over the weekend on proposals to pay for renewing jobless benefits and Obama’s 2 percentage point cut in the Social Security payroll tax due to expire Feb. 29.

Proposals such as requiring a $100 per-takeoff fee on airlines and private jet owners, auctioning broadcast spectrum, and raising pension guarantee insurance premiums are in the mix as negotiators seek $160 billion or more in deficit savings to pay for a 10-month extensive of the payroll tax cut and federal jobless benefits.

The president’s budget plan predicts a deficit of $1.3 trillion for 2012 and a $901 billion deficit in the 2013 budget year, which starts Oct. 1. It claims deficit savings of more than $4 trillion over a decade, mixing $1 trillion already banked through last summer’s clampdown on agency operating budgets with $1.5 trillion in higher tax revenues reaped from an overhaul of the tax code.

The budget also futilely asks Congress to adopt a “Buffett Rule” guaranteeing that households with a yearly income of more $1 million pay federal taxes equal to at least 30 percent of it. Billionaire financier Warren Buffett has made headlines proposing the idea, saying that it’s unfair for him to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary.