WASHINGTON — President Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget, released yesterday, estimates a $1.267 trillion deficit, or 8.3% of gross domestic product, and proposes raising taxes on wealthy Americans that could boost demand for tax-exempt municipal bonds.
To generate revenue, the president’s budget allows tax cuts to expire for families earning more than $250,000.
The return of a 39% top tax bracket from 35% bracket for the highest wage earners could lower yields on tax-exempt munis by about 40 basis points, “and you could still get the same after-tax yield,” said Matt Fabian, managing director at Municipal Market Advisors. “An increase in tax rates creates a built-in rally in tax-exempts.”
The president’s deficit figure is higher than the Congressional Budget Office’s $980 billion deficit estimate for fiscal 2011, or 6.5% of GDP, announced last week.
The difference, observers said, lies mostly in the administration’s proposal to extend certain tax cuts that began in 2001 and 2003 for families earning less than $250,000 annually.
The CBO can only make estimates based on current law and assumes all of the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush will expire at the end of 2010. Fiscal 2011 will begin Oct. 1.
The administration’s budget differs from the CBO assumptions by “$4 trillion in additional costs from making a number of policies permanent” from 2011 to 2020, said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan, nonprofit organization that studies issues that have significant fiscal policy impact.
In addition to certain tax cut extensions, which account for about 76% of the $4 trillion difvference, the budget assumes the alternative minimum tax will be indexed to inflation and that a Medicare physician pay patch will be enacted.
The CBO revised down its fiscal 2010 deficit projection to $1.35 trillion, or 9.2% of GDP, saying that savings from the Troubled Asset Relief Program were greater than expected. The administration’s deficit estimate for fiscal 2010 is $1.56 trillion, or 10.6% of GDP.
The two budget offices have differing estimates for the ratio to GDP of total debt held by the public. The CBO estimates 65.3% of public debt to GDP in fiscal 2011 and the OMB estimates the ratio at 68.6%.
The administration’s economic forecast assumes GDP will grow at a 3% annual rate in 2010 and will grow 4.25% annually from 2011 through 2013.
The CBO estimated GDP will grow 3.2% in 2010, 1.9% in 2011 and will have an annual average growth of 5.6% from 2012 through 2014.
“If growth does pick up, then you will have more inflationary fears, that could be bad for bonds,” Fabian said. But the economic growth could be too optimistic, he said, adding: “It seems like we are headed for a very difficult period of consolidation.”