WASHINGTON — Government spending hit an all-time high for a single month in March, pushing the budget deficit up significantly from the red-ink level of a year ago.

In its monthly accounting of the government's books, the Treasury Department reported Wednesday that federal spending totaled $250 billion last month, up 13.7 percent from March 2005.

Government receipts also were up, rising 10.6 percent from a year ago, to $164.6 billion. That left a deficit for the month of $85.5 billion, a record imbalance for March.

Treasury Department officials said that half of the growth in outlays for March represented a $15 billion shift in payments for certain government benefit programs, including Medicare, into March rather than April. The benefit payments were made early because April 1 fell on a Saturday.