The federal government started out its new budget year with a slightly higher deficit than last year as revenues and spending for October both set records.

The Treasury Department reported that the deficit for October totaled $49.3 billion, up 4.3 percent from the $47.3 billion imbalance recorded a year ago.

The budget deficit for the 2006 budget year, which ended on Sept. 30, dropped to a four-year low of $248.2 billion. However, the deficit for the current 2007 budget year is expected to resume rising.

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For October, the $49.3 billion deficit was below the all-time October high of $70 billion set in 2003. The government has run a deficit every year in October going back to 1954.

Revenues for October were up 12.2 percent from last year to a record $167.7 billion, surpassing the old October record of $157 billion set in 2001.

Spending for October was up 10.3 percent from a year ago to a record for October of $217 billion.

Congress returned for a lame-duck session Monday and was faced with the need to pass a stopgap funding measure: Lawmakers adjourned for the campaign having passed only two of the 13 appropriations bills needed to fund the government in the new budget year.

Democrats, who will control the House and Senate next year based on last week's election results, would like to complete the rest of the spending bills this year, rather than having them on their early agenda in 2007.

President Bush said his first-term tax cuts, by helping to get the country out of the 2001 recession, had played a major role in the 2006 improvement of the deficit.

But critics contend that the added economic stimulus made up only a small part of the revenues lost by the tax cuts. The new Congress will face the question of whether to extend Bush's tax cuts, which currently are scheduled to end in 2010.

The Bush administration is estimating that the deficit for the current budget year will total $339.2 billion, a sharp 36.7 percent increase from 2006. However, the Congressional Budget Office is projecting a smaller increase which will push this year's deficit to $286 billion.

Bush has presided over the three largest deficits in U.S. history in dollar terms including the all-time high of $413 billion in 2004.

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