Obama 2015 budget focuses on boosting economy

Obama 2015 budget focuses on boosting economy

March 5th, 2014 by Associated Press in Local - Breaking News

President Barack Obama sits with Marcus Wesby and other preschool student during his visit to Powell Elementary School in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington on Tuesday. Obama visited the school to talk about his 2015 budget proposal. Powell elementary has seen rapid growth in recent years and serves a predominantly Hispanic student body. Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray, who greeted Obama at the school, recently directed $20 million to Powell for a planned modernization and addition.

President Barack Obama sits with Marcus Wesby and...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Graphic of President Barack Obama's 2015 budget.

Graphic of President Barack Obama's 2015 budget.

Illustration by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

WASHINGTON- President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.9 trillion budget Tuesday that would funnel money into road building, education and other economy-bolstering programs, handing Democrats a playbook for their election-year themes of creating jobs and narrowing the income gap between rich and poor.

The blueprint for fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1, is laden with populist proposals designed to fortify those goals. It includes new spending for pre-school education and job training, expanded tax credits for 13.5 million low-income workers without children and more than $1 trillion in higher taxes over the next decade, mostly for the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

"As a country, we've got to make a decision if we're going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans or if we're going to make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy and expand opportunity for every American," Obama told students at an elementary school in the nation's capital.

With an eye in part on job creation, $302 billion would be spent to upgrade roads, railroads and mass transit, with more money aimed at improvements at Veterans Affairs hospitals and national parks. Additional funds would be aimed at clean energy research, creating 45 public-private manufacturing institutes for spurring innovation and training workers whose companies have closed or moved.

To help pay for those initiatives and others and trim federal deficits as well, Obama relies in part on higher revenue.

He would raise $651 billion by limiting tax deductions for the nation's highest earners and with a "Buffett tax" -- named for billionaire Warren Buffett -- slapping minimum levies on the highest-earning people. Taxes would also be raised on large estates, financial institutions, tobacco products, airline passengers and managers of private investment funds.

Congress has ignored those revenue proposals and many of Obama's spending ideas before. With the entire House and one-third of the Senate facing re-election in November, campaign-year pressures and gridlock between the Democratic-led Senate and Republican dominated House all but ensure that few of the president's initiatives will go far.

"The president has offered perhaps his most irresponsible budget yet," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has participated in two failed rounds of deficit-reduction talks with Obama since 2011. "American families looking for jobs and opportunity will find only more government in this plan."

"It's disappointing that the president produced a campaign document instead of putting forth a serious budget blueprint that makes the tough choices necessary to get our fiscal house in order," said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

Obama's budget claims to obey overall agency spending limits that were enacted in December after a bipartisan compromise was reached between Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the heads of the House and Senate budget committees.

Yet Obama was proposing an additional package of $55 billion in spending priorities, half for defense and half for domestic programs.

Without that extra money, Pentagon spending be $496 billion, the same as this year. The Pentagon plans to shrink the Army from 490,000 active-duty soldiers to as few as 440,000 over the coming five years -- the smallest since just before World War II.

The extra funds would allow steps like buying additional aircraft and enhancing training.

Budget cutters have had the upper hand over defense hawks in recent years. But this year's debate over military spending will have an added element as Obama encounters Republican demands for a tough U.S. stance following Russia's intervention in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

On the domestic side, Obama would use the additional money for grants to states for preschools, new research financed by the National Institutes of Health and modernization of aviation safety systems.

That extra spending would be paid for by cutting federal crop insurance, raising airline passenger fees and capping retirement account tax benefits for wealthy savers -- all of which would face an uphill climb in Congress.

The White House released fewer budget documents than normal on Tuesday, making it hard to determine exact costs and details of some of those additional spending proposals and others, such as the 2015 price tag for Obama's health care overhaul.

However, Obama's plan to expand the earned income tax credit to childless, low-income workers would cost $116 billion over 10 years. It would increase the current $500 maximum those recipients can receive to $1,000.

The budget projects a 2015 deficit of $564 billion and a shortfall this year of $649 billion. If those come true, it would mark three straight years of annual red ink under $1 trillion, following four previous years when deficits exceeded that mark every time.

The president's spending plan also takes credit for reducing potential accumulated deficits over coming decade by $2.2 trillion, though the red ink would grow by $4.9 trillion over that period. The nation still faces long-term deficit problems as baby boomers retire and government health care costs continue to grow.

Nearly one-third of Obama's savings come from claimed savings from the end of the U.S. war in Iraq and the gradual withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. Critics argue that those savings are fictional because with the ending of U.S. involvement in those conflicts, no one had been expecting that money to be spent on combat.

Other savings the president claims include $158 billion from his proposal to revamp immigration laws, which has stalled in Congress. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has made a similar estimate, with federal revenue accruing as more immigrants work and pay taxes.

The budget also retains Obama's 2012 proposal to reshape corporate income taxes, including lowering the top rate from 28 percent to 25 percent. It says the overhaul would raise a one-time $150 billion with steps like smaller loopholes for U.S. companies doing business overseas -- about half of which Obama would use to finance transportation improvements.

That resembles a proposal by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., in a rare instance of overlap on revenues by the two parties. But prospects for a tax overhaul remain dim in an election year.

Much of the rest of Obama's deficit reduction would come from other proposals with little chance of surviving in Congress, including higher taxes and Medicare costs for the rich and cuts in government payments to pharmaceutical companies and other Medicare providers. With declining budget deficits, it has become easier for lawmakers to avoid seriously considering the politically painful tax increases and spending cuts needed to significantly reduce the shortfalls.

Thus, the president's budget does not renew last year's offer -- hated by many fellow Democrats -- to save money by slowing increases of Social Security benefits. The White House says that plan was advanced only to entice congressional Republicans into deficit-reduction talks and was excluded this year after GOP leaders refused to reciprocate by offering tax increases.

Obama's budget starts what should be a relatively peaceful year on Washington's fiscal front lines. That is because land mines embedded in the budgetary landscape have been defused this time around after cliffhanger, partisan showdowns in recent years.

Instead of the annual fight over spending limits -- which last year helped produce a 16-day partial government shutdown -- Murray and Ryan's bipartisan compromise set an overall agency spending cap for the next two years. That has eliminated the need for lawmakers to do anything but provide the details in later spending bills, easing the threat of another federal closure.

Also missing this year is a need to extend the government's debt limit, which in the past has sparked battles that threatened economy-jarring federal defaults. Congress has given the Treasury Department authority to borrow money into next March, eliminating a must-pass legislative vehicle that either side might use to make demands.

Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Nedra Pickler and Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.

Here is an agency-by-agency summary of President Barack Obama's proposed budget for fiscal 2015, beginning next Oct. 1.

The top-line figures do not include spending on automatic benefit and subsidy programs that together account for 70 percent of government spending. Figures for many of those programs were not provided by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The top-line figures for each agency also omit the $55.4 billion "opportunity" initiative Obama would divide equally between domestic and military programs. An agency-by-agency accounting of that proposed spending was not included in the White House budget documents.

Agency: Agriculture

• Discretionary spending: $22.2 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 7.9 percent decrease

• Highlights: The recently-enacted five-year farm bill made some cutbacks to farm subsidies that the Obama administration has called for annually. But the administration would like that reform to go even further by scaling back crop insurance.

The budget proposes around a 15 percent cut in the $9 billion-a-year program, which partially subsidizes both the companies that sell crop insurance and farmer premiums. There will be little appetite for that reform in Congress, however, where funding for crop insurance has been a priority.

The bulk of the USDA budget is food stamps, which cost $80 billion last year, and money for farm subsidies and conservation programs. Together, those so-called mandatory dollars are expected to cost $123 billion on top of the $22.2 billion in discretionary spending, an 8 percent decrease from the 2014 budget year.

The budget would change the way money to fight wildfires is distributed, allowing USDA and the Interior Department to draw funds from a special disaster account when the cost of tackling fires exceeds their annual budget.

The Obama administration also proposed doubling dollars for broadband access the neediest, most rural communities and providing an extra $50 million to strengthen bee and other pollinator habitats. Many of the nation's bees, needed to pollinate crops, have been disappearing in the last decade.

The budget includes extra $295 million not included in the budget numbers that would go to agricultural research, including a new laboratory in Athens, Ga.

USDA shares food safety oversight with the Food and Drug Administration. The Agriculture Department, which oversees meat and eggs, would see about a 1 percent decrease its $1 billion in annual funding. FDA, which oversees most other foods, would get a boost of $24 million to put a new food safety law in place.

Agency: Commerce

• Discretionary spending: $8.8 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 6 percent increase

• Highlights: The department budget proposes spending $2 billion on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop its next generation weather satellite systems, which helps NOAA forecast storms and issue warnings on significant changes in weather conditions.

The overall budget also would finance the National Weather Service while closing an ocean science laboratory and consolidating another.

The department oversees an unusual mix of bureaus, from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to the International Trade Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The proposed budget includes funds for the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories, SelectUSA, a program to promote economic investment in the United States, and $210 million to the Economic Development Administration.

The Obama administration is proposing $753 million, an increase of $281 million, for research and testing on methods to conduct the 2020 decennial census. The proposal includes a request for $16 million to develop three statistical measures to "improve evidence-based decision-making" in counting the number of people in the U.S., figures that are politically critical in redrawing congressional districts and deciding on a state's number of representatives.

The budget also proposes $5 million for the Census Bureau to measure poverty.

The budget requests $51 million for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and envisions freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum through spectrum auctions. The administration says such a step will increase commercial access to wireless broadband spectrum and estimates a reduction in the deficit of nearly $20 billion over a decade.

Agency: Defense Department

• Discretionary spending: $495.6 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 0.4 percent decrease

• Highlights: The Pentagon is proposing to shrink the size of the military, applying a no-growth $495.6 billion budget to modernizing the force in ways that it says will enable the country to meet national security challenges in the aftermath of long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army would shrink to 440,000-450,000 by 2019, making it the smallest since just before the U.S. entered World War II. The Navy would keep its 11 aircraft carrier strike groups. The Air Force would retire its entire fleet of A-10 "Warthog" close-air support aircraft as well as its U-2 high-altitude spy planes. The Marine Corps would shrink from 190,000 troops to 182,000.

A number of proposals in the Pentagon budget are almost certain to face opposition in Congress, including a call for authority to close domestic military bases that the Pentagon says are unneeded. Many in Congress also are expected to oppose efforts by the Pentagon to save money by slowing the growth of military pay and requiring military members to pay a small portion of their housing costs, which currently are wholly subsidized by the government.

The Pentagon says it will have to make even steeper reductions in troop strength and in other areas after 2015 if Congress does not act to prevent a return to the mandatory across-the-board budget reductions known as sequestration in 2016.

Agency: Education

• Discretionary spending: $68.6 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 1.9 percent increase

• Highlights: President Barack Obama's goal is to expand high quality early childhood programs. In particular, he's sought to create universal pre-K programs for 4-year-olds.

His budget would provide $1.3 billion to states to roll out "preschool for all" programs aligned with school systems funded by a tobacco tax hike as part of a 10-year, $75 billion plan. The Education Department would share costs with states to provide universal access to low- and moderate-income families and provide incentives to states to serve additional children. Also, it would provide $750 million in grant dollars to support states' efforts to enhance or expand preschool programs -- with $250 million of it coming from the "opportunity" initiative.

The plan also would create a new "Race to the Top Equity and Opportunity" competition funded at $300 million that would seek to encourage support for high-needs students. The plan also would increase funding toward programs in areas such as improving school safety and training for teachers using digital technology.

On making college more affordable, Obama's budget would provide billions of dollars for new programs that would reward colleges that enroll and graduate a significant number of low- and moderate-income students on time, encourage states to improve their public higher education systems and create a competition focused on improving historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions.

It would also fund $100 million for a "First in the World" competition focused on innovation in higher education and additional spending toward "pay as you earn" efforts to help needy student loan recipients pay back their debt.

Agency: Energy

• Discretionary spending: $27.9 billon

• Percentage change from 2014: 2.6 percent increase

• Highlights: Obama again would increase spending for two priorities: clean energy and national security. The budget proposal calls for $11.7 billion for nuclear security, a 4 percent increase over the current budget. Much of that money, $8.3 billion, would go to maintain a nuclear deterrent in a joint program with the Defense Department. About $1.6 billion would go to programs that prevent the proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies that could be used by rogue states and terrorist groups. A total of $5.6 billion would go to clean up nuclear waste at Cold War sites across the nation, including one in Washington state used to build the atomic bomb.

The budget includes $2.3 billion to promote efficiency and renewable energy such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower to further reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.

The budget proposal winds down federal funding for a long-delayed project to turn weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors. After a year-long review, the budget would essentially place the South Carolina-based mixed-oxide fuel program, or MOX, on hold while officials continue to evaluate alternative ways to dispose of plutonium. The administration says it remains committed to safe disposition of weapons-grade plutonium under an agreement with Russia. The so-called MOX plant being built at South Carolina's Savannah River nuclear site has been plagued by years of delays and is billions of dollars over budget.

As he has each year in office, Obama again calls for repealing more than $4 billion per year in tax subsidies to oil, gas and other fossil fuel producers. The plan is likely to meet the same fate as previous proposals, which died without a vote in Congress.

The budget calls for spending $359 million on cutting-edge vehicle technologies, $253 million to develop new biofuels such as ethanol made from switchgrass or other materials and $200 million for a new Energy Security Trust to expand research into electric cars and biofuels to wean automobiles off gasoline. Obama also proposed the Energy Security Trust last year but was rebuffed by Congress.

Agency: Environmental Protection Agency

• Discretionary spending: $7.9 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 3.7 percent decrease

• Highlights: As the lead agency on cutting the pollution blamed for global warming, the EPA has some big years ahead. But the Obama administration is proposing to shave the agency's budget once again in 2015, even as it raises the amount of money available to states, which it will increasingly rely on to help achieve its environmental goals.

The 2015 budget request envisions an EPA with the trimmest staff since 2003, forcing the agency to realign priorities and staff and make tough choices as EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said Tuesday.

The budget includes a $76 million bump to grants for states and tribes, including $20 million to be used solely on efforts to support President Barack Obama's second-term push on global warming. State agencies will play a key role in determining how exactly existing coal-fired power plants will reduce carbon pollution, a regulation EPA is expected to propose this summer.

Obama's budget request directs 24 full-time staff and $10 million to execute Obama's climate plan and devotes nearly 20 percent of the agency's $1 billion climate and air quality budget to fighting global warming.

After an explosion of ammonium nitrate at a West, Texas fertilizer plant, the administration is requesting $13 million more to upgrade computer software used by first responders to map chemical releases, to store data on chemical risk and to predict where a release to air would travel. Yet the budget cuts $581 million to loan programs used by states and tribes to upgrade drinking water infrastructure and protect water resources, even though a 2011 report to Congress found that $384.2 billion would be needed through 2030.

Some of that money will likely be restored by lawmakers keen on finding money to send back to their home states.

The budget eliminates $56 million in programs, including grants to monitor water quality at beaches, reduce cancer-causing radon indoors, and clean up emissions from diesel engines.

The EPA's budget figures exclude an additional $14 million, the agency's share of Obama's request for an extra $55 billion above a December budget agreement. That money is slated for helping communities prepare for impending climate changes: $10 million will be spent on protecting coastal wetlands and $4 million will support urban forests.

Agency: Health and Human Services

• Discretionary spending: $73.7 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 7.6 percent decrease

• Highlights: Obama's proposed health care budget supports the rollout of the president's health care law and lays the groundwork for next year's open enrollment season, when the administration hopes to have worked out all the bugs in the new insurance system. Fees from insurers will provide a new stream of revenue for online markets that cater to people who don't have access to health care on the job. The budget includes $25 million over two years to monitor and prevent fraud in the insurance exchanges.

Monday's budget documents provided little detail on Medicare and Medicaid, the entitlement programs that account for the vast majority of HHS spending. Those specifics will be released later. However, Obama's plan calls for overall cuts of $402 billion over ten years projected spending on the two giant health care programs. Most of that would come from Medicare. The budget also supports congressional efforts to change the way Medicare pays doctors, emphasizing improved quality. For Medicaid, the budget proposes a one-year extension of higher payments for primary care practitioners.

The Medicare cuts are expected to be heavy on recycled and updated versions of previous proposals. They include higher premiums on affluent beneficiaries for outpatient care and prescription drug coverage, and a raft of changes that would squeeze service providers.

Agency: Homeland Security

• Discretionary spending: $38.2 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 2.8 percent decrease

• Highlights: Obama's proposed homeland security budget would provide money to hire 2,000 new Customs and Border Protection officers to work at the country's ports of entry. The budget also proposes another 2,000 officers whose positions would be funded by user fees. Lawmakers and others have repeatedly complained to the Homeland Security Department that long waits at borders and airports hinders both business and tourism and have repeatedly asked for more border officers.

The president's budget plan also calls for $124 million to "support, expand and enhance" the E-Verify system employers can use to verify that employees are legally allowed to work in the United States. Obama has continued to push for broad immigration legislation but Republicans have been largely opposed, citing the need for border security before addressing other immigration issues. There have also been calls in recent years from some in Congress to make the use of E-verify mandatory.

The budget proposal also includes $10 million to help train local law enforcement on how to respond to mass shooting and bolster the department's "If You See Something, Say Something" program as it relates to helping prevent gun violence. President Barack Obama has unsuccessfully pushed for stronger gun control laws in the wake of mass shootings in a Colorado movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school.

Agency: Housing and Urban Development

• Discretionary spending: $32.6 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 3.3 percent decrease

• Highlights: The department, established in 1965, calls for a budget that would provide rental housing assistance for some 4.5 million families with low incomes, including vouchers for 2.2 million.

Among the proposals are $2.4 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, part of the administration's effort to end chronic homelessness and the problem of homelessness among the nation's veterans.

Including the various proposals are $45 million for affordable housing to the elderly and those with disabilities.

After housing took a major hit during the recent recession, the budget calls for billions of dollars for a program to help communities struggling with blight from abandoned and foreclosed homes.

The proposal comes as home prices increased in January after three months of decline, attributed in part to the limited supply of properties, according to real estate data provider CoreLogic.

Under the program, HUD partners with local governments, provides money for job training and explores private investment.

Agency: Interior

• Discretionary spending: $11.5 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: None

• Highlights: In a flat budget year for Interior, Obama's proposal would allow the agency, along with the Agriculture Department, to draw funds from a special disaster account to fight wildfires. That's the same approach the government currently takes when responding to hurricanes and tornadoes. Obama said it would provide more certainty for agencies that fight fires, including the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.

The proposal is part of the administration's effort to ramp up its response to the growing impacts of climate change, including more severe wildfires and drought.

The budget also would allocate $900 million to support land and water conservation programs that protect parks, wildlife refuges, forests, rivers, trails, battlefields, historic and cultural sites. The budget also includes $400 million as part of a three-year, $1.2 billion plan to upgrade and restore national parks in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016. The proposal includes $300 million per year in federal spending, with another $100 million per year in private funds. The program is aimed at ensuring that 1,700 "high priority" park assets are restored to good condition by 2017.

The budget again floats new fees for the oil and gas industry to pay for the processing of permits and would impose fees on leased parcels where no production is occurring. Officials say the fees would save an estimated $250 million a year and expedite drilling on public lands, but the ideas have made little headway in Congress.

The plan includes $375 million for two agencies that oversee offshore drilling and award leases to energy companies. The money would continue reforms begin after the 2010 BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In a move sure to irk coal-state lawmakers, Obama again calls for changing a fee system designed to clean up abandoned coal mines. States with no abandoned mines would not receive payments. The proposal has made little headway in Congress.

Agency: Justice

• Discretionary spending: $27.4 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 0.7 percent increase

• Highlights: Obama's proposed Justice Department budget would provide $8.5 billion to maintain federal prisons and detention facilities, including investments in programs designed to reduce recidivism.

It also calls for $4 billion in national security investments, including a $15 million increase to fund a new FBI laboratory in Alabama that analyzes bombing attacks, such as the one at last year's Boston Marathon. The president's budget also seeks additional funds for his "Now Is The Time" initiative to reduce gun violence, a multi-prong strategy Obama announced in the aftermath of the 2012 Newtown, Conn., school shootings. The spending plan provides $13 million so the FBI can maintain improvements made to the National Criminal Instant Background Check system, and the department is seeking money to support active-shooter training for law enforcement officers.

The proposed budget also includes $681 million for financial fraud enforcement and $2.9 billion to support immigration enforcement. The president is seeking a $23 million investment for immigration courts, including for additional immigration judge teams and appeals attorneys, to deal with an increased caseload.

The spending plan calls for increased spending on civil rights to support enforcement of laws on fair housing, hate crimes, human trafficking, disability rights and voting. The budget includes requested program increases of $7.6 million for the Civil Rights Division and the Community Relations Service.

The proposed budget would also include grants to support state, local and tribal enforcement.

Agency: Labor

• Discretionary spending: $11.8 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 1.7 percent decrease

• Highlights: Obama's budget would put into force his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 now to $10.10, which has encountered resistance on Capitol Hill from many Republicans. It would beef up job training and employment programs and consolidate and modernize training programs to help displaced workers. It would strengthen the Pension Guarantee Corporation to serve as a backstop to insure pension payments for workers whose companies have failed. It would also streamline the unemployment insurance system. It would earmark additional funds to help states launch paid-leave programs

Agency: NASA

• Discretionary spending: $17.5 billion.

• Percentage change from 2014: 0.6 percent decrease.

• Highlights: NASA's budget would essentially remain about the same with a tiny decrease. But if the Obama Administration gets its "opportunity" add-on budget, NASA would get an extra $885 million. That would make the space agency's budget rise by 4.5 percent.

NASA also announced that it is planning a robotic mission to Jupiter's watery moon Europa, where astronomers say there could be life. Agency officials didn't have a cost for such a big mission, but included $15 million in planning in the budget proposal.

The regular budget would decrease science spending by $179 million -- 3 percent. But if the add-on spending gets approved, which is considered not likely, science spending would go back to slightly above 2014 spending levels. The regular budget would also trim exploration spending by $137 million but the add-on would more than make up for that with $350 million in extra exploration spending.

The regular budget would increase spending by $275 million for the International Space Station and $152 million for the commercial spaceflight program that would pay private firms to take cargo and, eventually crew, to the station. The budget includes money to fund NASA efforts that would start launching people from the United States again in 2017 in private rockets. It also includes money to send astronauts on still-to-be-built NASA large rockets and crew capsules to an asteroid by 2025 and toward Mars by the mid-2030s. The agency plans 16 science and cargo launches in the upcoming budget year and to continue work on the over-budget $8.8 billion dollar James Webb space telescope that would launch in 2018. The agency also said it plans to mothball an airborne infrared telescope unless European countries pitch in on funding.

Agency: State and U.S. Agency for International Development

• Discretionary spending: $42.6 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 0.2 percent decrease

• Highlights: Obama's proposed 2015 budget for the State Department and US Agency for International Development represents a slight decrease over the previous year but maintains funding for many of the administration's key priorities. It includes a $4.6 billion request to secure overseas personnel and facilities, including $2.2 billion in security construction at U.S. diplomatic missions that was recommended by a panel convened in the wake of the deadly 2012 attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya.

The spending plan asks Congress for $1.5 billion to support democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa as well as to ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria. It would set aside $400 million to support an anticipated transition in Syria. It foresees spending $5.1 billion for programs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, a significant reduction from previous years reflecting the end of the war in Iraq and the winding down of military operations in Afghanistan. That includes $2.6 billion for operations in Afghanistan, where the administration is still reviewing the size and scope of its military presence after the end of the year; $1.5 billion for Iraq, including $250 million to support the Iraqi military; and $1 billion for Pakistan, of which $280 million will support Pakistani security forces. It would also allocate $3 billion for international peacekeeping missions.

Agency: Transportation

• Discretionary spending: $14 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 2.2 percentage increase.

• Highlights: The proposal includes $302 billion over the next four years for road, bridge, rail and transit programs. Transit and passenger rail spending would jump from $12.3 billion to $22.3. Current population trends indicate much of the growth will take place in close-in suburban and rural areas, making transit improvements critical to being able to move people around efficiently, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters. Improving passenger train service between cities less than 500 miles apart also seen as an alternative to air travel, which is forecast to grow substantially in coming decades. There's also $10 billion spread over four years aimed at eliminating freight transportation bottlenecks.

The proposal would also sharply boost spending on the Next Generation Air Transportation System program to revamp the nation's air traffic control system, moving from the current radar-based system to one based on GPS technology. The program would get an extra $186 million, raising total the total "NextGen" budget for the federal fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1 to about $1 billion. The program is aimed at increasing the capacity and efficiency of the nation's air traffic system to accommodate growth in air travel in the coming decades. But airlines and other users of the system have complained that after 10 years of work, the program so far has produced only modest benefits. The administration says the extra funding will provide the Federal Aviation Administration -- which is part of the Department of Transportation -- with the "flexibility to aggressively develop and deploy more time and fuel saving capabilities while also addressing serious maintenance backlogs" in existing air traffic control facilities and equipment.

Also included in the proposal is $40 million to improve the safety of crude oil shipments by rail and truck. The money would be used to ramp up inspections, as well as conduct research and testing. The volume of crude oil being shipped by rail has soared in recent years, largely as a result of the fracking boom in North Dakota. A train derailment and fire in Canada last summer that killed 47 people, as well as derailments in North Dakota and Alabama that led to intense fires, have heightened safety concerns.

Agency: Treasury

• Discretionary spending: $12.4 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 5.1 percent increase

• Highlights: Obama's proposed Treasury Department budget would boost funding for the Internal Revenue Service by more than $1 billion in an attempt to improve tax enforcement and customer service. The budget also provides resources to implement the president's health law.

The vast majority of Treasury's budget goes to the IRS, which has faced deep spending cuts the past several years. The agency's budget has declined from $12.2 billion in 2010 to $11.3 billion in the current budget year.

The IRS says budget cuts have hurt customer service so much that only 60 percent of people who call toll-free help lines reach a real person who can help them. Obama's budget is designed to improve customer service so that 80 percent of callers get help.

Obama's proposed budget would exceed spending caps agreed to by Congress by spending an additional $480 million to beef up tax enforcement. The Treasury Department estimates that for every $1 spent on enforcement, the IRS collects an additional $6.00.

Over the next 10 years, the Treasury Department projects that increased spending on enforcement would generate an additional $35 billion in tax revenue.

Agency: Veterans Affairs

• Discretionary spending: $65.3 billion

• Percentage change from 2014: 3 percent increase

• Highlights: The bulk of the department's discretionary spending -- $56 billion -- would go toward veterans' medical care. Obama seeks a 2.7 percent increase in medical spending as the number of patients treated at VA hospitals and outpatient clinics continues to rise. VA health care enrollment is projected to reach 9.3 million in 2015.

Discretionary spending is far outstripped by mandatory obligations to veterans, however. The department expects $95.6 billion in mandatory spending, mostly disability and pension payments.

Obama seeks to spend $312 million on technological improvements in hopes of eliminating a longstanding backlog of disability claims. An estimated 4.9 million veterans and survivors are expected to receive disability payments next year.

The budget includes more than $7 billion to continue expanding mental health services and $1.6 billion for programs designed to get homeless veterans into housing. About $589 million would go for medical research, including advances in prosthetic limbs to help those wounded in war.

Obama also wants an additional one-time infusion of $400 million, beyond the spending set in December's bipartisan budget deal, for construction projects, critical safety fixes and service improvements.

The president again seeks to create a Veterans Job Corps, at a cost of $1 billion, to put thousands of veterans to work restoring trails, roads, natural habitats and other features of parks and public lands over the next five years. Congress didn't embrace that idea in previous years.

The VA also expects to spend $3.1 billion raised through fees from patients and insurers. Altogether, its 2015 budget would be $164 billion under Obama's plan, a 6.5 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

Associated Press Writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Donna Cassata, Robert Burns, Kimberly Hefling, Matthew Daly, Dina Cappiello, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Alicia A. Caldwell, Eric Tucker, Tom Raum, Seth Borenstein, Matthew Lee, Joan Lowy, Stephen Ohlemacher and Connie Cass contributed to this report.