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PolitiFact.com | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

Booker wrong on discretionary spending under Obama

The statement

Says that under President Barack Obama, there's been "the lowest discretionary spending we've had in decades in the United States."

Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J., on NBC's Meet The Press

The ruling

Newark Mayor Cory Booker argued May 20 in a roundtable discussion that Obama needs to remind Americans of his accomplishments, such as overseeing the lowest level of discretionary spending in decades.

"First of all, I think it's a race for President Obama to remind the American public (of) the kind of things he's been doing and stop letting the other side steal his narrative," said Booker, a Democrat and a representative of the Obama campaign. "He's a guy that's cut taxes on small business, the lowest discretionary spending we've had in decades in the United States."

It's actually the other way around.

As a percentage of gross domestic product — which is a measure of the nation's economy — discretionary spending under Obama has reached its highest level in about two decades, according to the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

Booker spokeswoman Anne Torres acknowledged that the mayor's statement was wrong.

"You're correct," Torres told us. "He misspoke."

There are two main categories of federal spending: discretionary and mandatory. Discretionary spending is controlled by lawmakers through annual appropriation acts. Mandatory spending is generally based on program parameters, such as those for Social Security and Medicare.

Discretionary spending represents nearly 40 percent of all federal outlays and is made up of defense and nondefense items.

In fiscal year 2010 — Obama's first complete fiscal year as president — discretionary spending hit 9.4 percent of GDP, marking the highest amount since fiscal year 1987. In fiscal year 2011, discretionary spending dropped to 9 percent.

Before fiscal years 2010 and 2011, discretionary spending had not reached 9 percent since fiscal year 1991.

In a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling, Obama and Congress agreed last summer to set caps on certain types of future discretionary spending. Due in large part to those caps, discretionary spending is projected to reach historic lows in the years ahead.

We rate the statement False.

This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

Booker wrong on discretionary spending under Obama 05/28/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 28, 2012 8:19pm]
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