In a good news/bad news scenario typical of the Beltway, the Congressional Budget Office said the federal government would close out its fiscal 2003 with a $401 billion deficit — roughly $54 billion less than the shortfall projected by the White House.

That’s the good news.

But on the other end of the spectrum, the CBO has projected a $480 billion hole for 2004 and a $1.4 trillion deficit over the next 10 years.

That’s the bad news.

But there’s hope down the road.

According to the agency’s long-term outlook, the record shortfalls should decline through 2011 before surpluses return in 2012 and 2013.

The CBO said those future surpluses account for the expiration of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.

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