updated 11/17/2003 6:32:26 AM ET 2003-11-17T11:32:26

The U.S. government started out its new budget year in the red in October, the Treasury Department said on Monday in its monthly budget statement.

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The Treasury said the federal government posted a deficit of $69.55 billion in October, the first month of the 2004 budget year. The shortfall was bigger than a $54.07 billion gap in the same month in 2002.

Monday’s figures were in line with analysts’ projections.

The deficit for the just-ended 2003 budget year was revised slightly to $374.25 billion from the originally reported $374.22 billion. The 2003 shortfall remained a record, surpassing the $290 billion mark seen in 1992.

Another record is expected to be set for 2004. The last official Bush administration projection in July called for a $475 billion deficit, while the Congressional Budget Office forecast a $485 billion shortfall. Lawmakers are still haggling over the outlines of the 2004 federal budget.

The spiraling deficits have become a focal point for political attacks by Democrats on the Bush administration’s economic and fiscal policies. Administration officials, however, have defended the shortfalls as brought on by a sluggish economy and efforts to battle terrorism.

In 2003, spending increased by 7.2 percent, while receipts fell by 3.8 percent. According to the CBO, overall receipts were the lowest as a percentage of the economy since 1959.

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