Opinion: 'Bill's winter blanket Budget'
By Patrick Gower
Bill English has pulled a winter blanket out of the cupboard and tucked his eighth Budget into bed.
Bill's 2016 Budget is just like a winter blanket: it certainly isn't flashy, in truth it is bit boring -- but it is all about keeping things warm and cosy with good times promised not too far away.
He likes to make a virtue out of boring Budgets but he did have a big surprise -- doubling down the war on smokers with increased taxes that will put a packet of cigarettes up to $30.
Other than that, even a security threat outside today's lock-up couldn't ruffle him.
The Finance Minister has made the Budget all about "social investment" with a focus on children and "infrastructure".
Nothing is really new; he's just patching up the winter blanket here and there so there are no holes.
It's clear that winter won't last forever because Mr English has finally got the Government's books consistently back in black with a "decade of deficits" replaced by a "series of surpluses".
He's got some decent wedges of cash coming his way: $2.5 billion in 2018, $5 billion in 2019, and $6.7 billion in 2020.
That means he can start thinking about tax cuts, and I think we'll now see an election year tax cut promise. That is when Bill says let's get you guys a nice flash new duvet.
Mr English has also started paying down debt; all part of that winter blanket feel.
But the winter blanket has one gaping hole -- housing.
There is virtually nothing for housing -- no money, no imagination, no drive whatsoever to control the housing market.
Mr English has delivered Budgets after a global financial crisis and has is now able to look cool, calm and collected on the big day.
His own personal evolution continues as well; he's gone from "Bitter Bill" to "Boring Bill" and is now "cosy blanket Bill".
Mr English's message to voters is this: the winter blanket is on, wake up and open your eyes next year and I might just have a treat for you.