WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama Tuesday proposed an ambitious 2015 budget that seeks to address economic inequality in America, but Republicans are already criticizing the president’s spending priorities heading into midterm elections.
The budget, totaling $3.901 trillion, maps out an expansion of earned income tax credits for the poor and middle class. The president also called for increased taxes on the rich and broad business tax reforms that would eliminate loopholes allowing businesses to keep profits overseas.
“Our budget is about choices,” Obama said when he introduced the spending plan at an elementary school in snow-bound Washington. “It’s about our values. As a country we’ve got to make a decision if we’re going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, or if we are going to make smart investments to create jobs and grow our economy and expand opportunity for every American.”
At a budget briefing Tuesday, the White House touted reforms that would benefit the middle class by increasing the earned income tax credit for 13.5 million childless workers, a group that has been overlooked in a program aimed at working families. It is the largest expansion of the credit since 1993, White House officials said.
Obama’s budget, submitted to Congress Tuesday and designed to set spending priorities beginning Oct. 1, will likely face roadblocks in a divided Congress during an election year. Shortly after the budget was released, House Speaker John Boehner called it Obama’s “most irresponsible budget yet.”
“Spending too much, borrowing too much, and taxing too much, it would hurt our economy and cost jobs,” Boehner said in a statement Tuesday.
The Obama budget predicts the federal deficit will decline to $649 billion this year, and dip to $564 billion in 2015. When Obama first took office in 2009, the federal deficit reached 1.4 trillion by the end of the fiscal year.
The budget comes after Republicans and Democrats reached a bipartisan agreement in December that provides a blueprint for spending in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. The agreement was meant to alleviate some of the limits imposed by the automatic spending cuts, commonly known as sequestration.
The president’s budget lays out what a top Obama administration called his “fiscal road map” within the agreed spending limit. But it also calls for an additional $56 billion “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative.”
The initiative would split the new funding between non-defense programs such as universal preschool and programs that meant to strengthen national security. Obama said his Opportunity, Growth and Security plan would pick up half of its funding by reforming tax benefits going to multi-million dollar retirement accounts. The other half would come from “common-sense spending reforms” in programs like federal crop insurance.
As the budget was unveiled Tuesday, Obama’s sights were set on the situation unfolding in Ukraine. He even took a question on Ukraine when he outlined the budget at the public school event.
His budget calls for significant cuts in the size of the military and an end to certain weapons programs in favor of a modernization of technology that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel revealed last week. Republicans have criticized these plans in light of the Russian intervention in Crimea.
The Pentagon requested $496 billion as its base budget for 2015, with an additional $26 billion through the proposed initiative.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said if Republicans “are serious” about that concern, they should support the $56 billion “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative” that Obama introduced to increase the Pentagon’s spending power.