Obama challenges GOP to confront wealth gap


WASHINGTON — The $4 trillion budget that President Barack Obama sends Congress on Monday proposes higher taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations, and an ambitious $478 billion public works program for highway, bridge and transit upgrades.

The grab-bag of proposals, many recycled from past Obama budgets, already is generating fierce objections from Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress for the first time in his presidency. They will move ahead on their own, mindful they eventually must strike a deal with Obama, whose signature is needed for the budget to become law.

The spending blueprint for the 2016 budget year that begins Oct. 1 emphasizes the same themes as Obama’s State of the Union address last month, when he challenged Congress to work with him on narrowing the income gap between the very wealthy and everyone else.

In documents obtained by The Associated Press, Obama lays out the country’s first $4 trillion budget — $3.999 trillion before rounding — with proposed spending supported by $3.5 trillion in revenues.

The projected budget deficit would be $474 billion, slightly higher than the $467 billion forecast by the Congressional Budget Office for 2016. For the budget year that ended Sept. 30, the actual deficit was $483 billion.

That was a marked improvement from the $1 trillion-plus deficits during Obama’s first years in office, when the country was struggling to emerge from a deep recession.

The CBO sees the deficits rising for the rest of the decade, once again topping $1 trillion by 2025 as spending surges in the government’s big benefit programs with the retirement of millions of baby boomers.

Obama’s budget does not make major changes in politically popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Republicans are promising action in their budget plans.

Obama’s six-year $478 billion public works program would provide upgrades for the nation’s highways, bridges and transit systems, in an effort to tap into bipartisan support for spending on badly needed repairs.

Half of that money would come from a one-time mandatory tax on profits that U.S. companies have amassed overseas, according to White House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity before the budget was released.

The tax on accumulated foreign profits would be set at 14 percent, significantly lower than the current top corporate rate of 35 percent. The administration wants to overhaul corporate taxes by ending certain tax breaks and lowering rates, a challenging task that Obama and Republican leaders insist they are ready to tackle.

Higher taxes on the wealthy and on fees paid by the largest financial institutions would help raise $320 billion for low- and middle-income tax credits. Obama also is calling for a $60 billion program for free community college for qualified students and an $80 billion child care initiative.

“What I think the president is trying to do here is to, again, exploit envy economics,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, the new chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. “This top-down redistribution doesn’t work.”

But Ryan, R-Wis., also told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he was willing “to work with this administration to see if we can find common ground on certain aspects of tax reform.”

The White House believes it has some leverage on taxing foreign earnings by linking the revenue to construction projects that potentially could benefit the states and districts of virtually every member of Congress.