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A look at the congressional budget agreement
First Published Dec 17 2013 09:51 am • Last Updated Dec 17 2013 11:22 am

The bipartisan congressional budget agreement passed by the House and being debated in the Senate sets spending limits for defense and domestic programs for two years and averts a possible government shutdown in January. Endorsed by President Barack Obama, it increases government deficits in 2014 and 2015 but reduces them over the next 10 years by a total of $23 billion.

Key details of the agreement:

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—Establishes overall non-war-related discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion and $1.014 trillion for fiscal 2015. Discretionary spending is the money approved by Congress each year for agency operations. The House budget level had been $967 billion and the Senate $1.058 trillion for the year that runs through next Sept. 30. Fiscal 2013 discretionary spending was $986 billion.

—Eases across-the-board "sequester" spending cuts by $63 billion over two years, split between defense and domestic programs. In the current fiscal year, defense would be set at a base budget of $520.5 billion and domestic programs at $491.8 billion.

—Raises airline security fees from $5 to $11.20 for a typical round-trip ticket starting July 1, 2014. That would raise $13 billion over 10 years. Current fees are $2.50 per leg with a maximum fee of $10 for a round-trip with connecting flights or $5 for a nonstop round-trip fare.

—Reduces retirement benefits for working-age military retirees, including those who retire early because of disability. The cost-of-living adjustment would be modified to equal inflation minus 1 percent. The changes would be phased in, with no change in the current year, a 0.25 percent reduction in December 2014 and a 0.5 percent decrease in December 2015. It would apply to retirees under the age of 62. The change would save $6 billion.

—Increases by 1.3 percentage points the pension contributions paid by federal civilian workers hired after Jan. 1, 2014. The change would raise $6 billion.

—Restricts access to Social Security death records to prevent identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns. The change would save $269 million.

—Raises premiums paid by corporations to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. to guarantee pension benefits, a change that would raise $8 billion.

—Eliminates a requirement that the Maritime Administration reimburse other federal agencies for additional costs associated with shipping food aid on U.S. ships. This would save $731 million.


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—Cancels $1.6 billion in unobligated balances in Justice and Treasury Department funds that seize assets from criminals.

—Caps the maximum government payment for contract employees at $487,000, indexed to inflation. Agencies could make exceptions for scientists, engineers and other specialists.

—Gives the Treasury Department greater access to prison data to prevent prisoners from claiming improper payments. This would save $80 million.

—Approves a U.S.-Mexico agreement on oil and gas exploration in waters outside their exclusive economic zones.

—Permanently extends a requirement that states receiving mineral lease payments contribute to the federal government’s administrative costs. This step would save $415 million.

—Extends Bureau of Customs and Border Protection user fees. This would raise $7 billion.



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