It is easy to see Michael Cullen as a tight-fisted guardian of the public purse.
Especially on days like yesterday when he was – yet again – reporting surpluses even fatter than expected but being coy about the prospect of personal tax cuts. Some of the numbers in the Crown books are hard to square with the fiscal skinflint image, however.
Government spending, which after all is the side of the accounts Dr Cullen and his Cabinet colleagues have most control over, rose 7 per cent in the 2006/07 year.
It was $3.5 billion higher than the year before and as a share of the economy it crept up from 31.9 per cent to 32.2 per cent.
Tax revenue, on the other hand, was only 1.2 per cent higher than in the previous year.