Here's my take on the Budget... before it comes out.
With a few hours to go before the Budget, it already looks like it's Labour lite all over again; a political repeat of 2014 with National unashamedly doing exactly what opposition parties have been saying they should do and taking credit for it.
Well, not exactly, but close enough so as to blunt the swords of their political foes. It's as if Key and English went through Andrew Little's pre-Budget speech like a pair of pickpockets and said 'we'll have that'... 'and that'... 'and that'.
Little highlighted four missed opportunities -- diversifying the economy with R&D investment, levelling the investment playing field (especially in Auckland housing), revitalising the regions and cracking down on overseas speculators.
National has boosted R&D spending by $80 million, started a foreign buyers register, and extended the tax on capital gains (that's a TCG not a CGT). Oh, and it's helped itself to the bulk of Labour's KiwiBuild too, with its plans to build new houses on hundreds of hecatres of government land in Auckland.
The regions are about the only thing un-nicked.
It's shameless but difuses bombs. Labour and the other critics are left to say that National simply hasn't gone far enough, or done too little too late or simply stole its ideas. In doing so they look lame and impotent.
But politically there is a price to pay for National; political capital has been spent. With its base and on the right there must be disquiet that National is Labour lite again. They look like sell-outs.
The new political reality is that what National has done all-but guarantees a proper capital gains tax will be introduced to New Zealand. National has now created the framework around inheritances and the like that it was so critical of in the election campaign. So Labour and the Greens can push ahead on the path its laid.
Also, a full foreign buyers register is now unavoidable. If you can collect this initial data, then someone will go the whole hog at some stage.
But now, let's wait to see what Bill English has to say in person.