Rising tax revenue helped the federal government record a $25.4 billion surplus in January and put it on track to register a surplus for the full fiscal year for the first time in nearly three decades.
In fact, for the 12 months ended in January, the cumulative surplus totaled $9.6 billion - the most in at least 28 years. Just two months earlier, a $2.4 billion surplus in the 12 months ended in November was the first for any 12-month period since 1970.
The January surplus, swelled by quarterly income tax payments, was about $2.5 billion bigger than analysts had predicted. The surplus was the difference between $162.6 billion in receipts and spending of $137.2 billion.
During the first four months of fiscal 1998, which began Oct. 1, the government had a $14.3 billion deficit. In the same same period of fiscal 1997, the deficit had hit a 23-year low of $22 billion.
The Clinton administration predicted last month a $10 billion deficit for fiscal 1998, but Congressional Budget Office analysts said earlier this month a surplus - the first since fiscal 1969 - is likely.
The strong economy and booming stock market have increased the stream of tax revenue to the government, particularly from capital-gains taxes paid after stock sales.
Revenue through the first four months of fiscal 1998 totaled $549 billion. Spending was at $563.3 billion. February and March likely will see the budget in deficit as individuals claim income tax refunds. But April tax payments should produce a record monthly surplus, surpassing last April’s $93.9 billion record.