- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

President Obama will give back 5 percent of his salary to the Treasury in a show of solidarity with federal workers facing furloughs due to “sequester” budget cuts, the White House said Wednesday.

The president’s salary is set by law at $400,000 a year, and he will give back about $20,000 this year. Mr. Obama will write a check to the Treasury Department each month, beginning this month.

The move comes as he prepares to send his 2014 budget to Congress next week — a budget that the White House said Wednesday will not be balanced.

White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said the budget will reduce deficits by an unspecified amount, but it won’t achieve balance like the spending plan that has been approved by House Republicans.

“You don’t want to balance the budget for the purposes of simply balancing the budget by slashing everything it does to create economic growth, to create jobs,” Mr. Pfeiffer said at a breakfast event hosted by Politico. “And so we’re going to have a budget that helps the middle class, grows the economy, creates jobs, and reduces our deficit.”

House Republicans, who late last month passed a budget that makes deep spending cuts to achieve balance within a decade, are calling Mr. Obama’s 2014 budget a major test for the president.

“We’ll know — at last — whether President Obama is serious about supporting the economic growth and jobs we can only get by balancing the budget,” House Speaker John A. Boehner’s office said in a memo this week laying out how the GOP views the stakes.

Earlier this year, House Republicans passed a bill requiring Mr. Obama to either submit a budget that balanced within 10 years or else tell Congress when, if ever, it would be balanced.

The House GOP budget, written by Rep. Paul Ryan, would steadily lower deficits until it reached balance in 2023. The plan would freeze revenue at its current projected level of about 19 percent of the nation’s economy, but would cut more than $4 trillion from projected spending, chiefly from domestic programs.

Senate Democrats passed their own budget last month that boosts spending on infrastructure and calls for tax increases — though not enough to ever bring the budget into balance.

Mr. Pfeiffer, the White House adviser, belittled the GOP’s focus on balanced budgets, saying the previous two Ryan budgets didn’t reach balance until decades in the future. He said Mr. Obama’s goal is to try to stabilize the government’s finances.

“What our budget will do is follow the path of all of the bipartisan commissions that move us toward putting us [in] a sustainable place,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “It’s going to put us on a path that is consistent with the mutually agreed-upon levels of deficit reduction we should have.”

Mr. Obama has presided over $1 trillion-plus deficits in each of his first four years in office. The budget deficit for the current fiscal year that ends in September is projected to be around $850 billion.

Mr. Pfeiffer said the president is still hopeful that he can strike a larger deal with congressional Republicans on long-term deficit reduction coupled with entitlement reform and tax reform.

In the near term, he also would like to undo the sequesters, which are cutting some $85 billion from 2013 spending.

But with no clear path to halting the sequesters, Mr. Obama decided to cut his own pay as a show of solidarity.

The 5-percent cut is the same percentage that non-defense federal agencies were trimmed when the sequester began March 1. Mr. Obama will make his own cut retroactive to March 1.

The White House has said it will furlough nearly 500 employees in the Office of Management and Budget, but it has not outlined any budget cutbacks in the West Wing among the president’s top staff.

Mr. Obama’s total income in 2011 was $789,674, according to his tax returns. It included his investments and book sales.

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