Next week's Budget will not be a Black Budget. It will be the Black Hole Budget.
You won't hear Bill English calling it that in his Budget speech. But there will be plenty enough in the accompanying documents to piece together the story of the surplus that turned out to be a mirage; the surplus sucked up by the dark star of deficit never to be seen again.
Well, at least not until next year's Budget. Or so National is now praying. By then, however, any surplus-inspired celebrations will be rather belated and thus rather flat, along with the champagne held over from this year's fizzer.
Gone without trace is what was designated to be one of this year's document's major selling points - the confirmation that the Government's accounts are back in the black after having been drowned in red ink for the last six years.
The Minister of Finance must now find something else to wow the public with next Thursday afternoon.
What would have been a personal triumph for English evaporated as low inflation and sagging international dairy prices blew large holes in the forecasts of the Government's tax take.
National's four-year-old target of surplus by the end of the 2014-15 financial year was always a huge punt with little margin for untoward economic events. It was thus always a "target" rather than being accorded the status of a "promise". That was smart.
Not so smart was English and John Key talking up the surplus as fact. That allowed their opponents to twist their language into making their balancing of the Government's books sound like a promise.
And, of course, it would have suited National very nicely to claim it had kept a promise that it had never made.
The moral of the story is not to count your surpluses until they are well and truly hatched.
The Opposition parties are still pinching themselves that National has fallen flat on its face over something which goes to the very core of that party's management of the economy.
In particular, English's failure to achieve surplus has been a welcome and timely gift for Grant Robertson, who is still finding his feet as Labour's relatively new finance spokesman.
He has not wasted the opportunity. And for good reason. Robertson knows another similarly juicy chance of punishing National where it really hurts will be a long time coming around again.
Accordingly, Robertson has opened a second front to vex English by questioning whether the Government's books will even produce a surplus in the next financial year.
That is something of more than academic interest. Apart from severely curtailing National's flexibility to throw cash around ahead of election year, another failure to get into the black would throw a large spanner into the works when it comes to enabling National to deliver another package of tax cuts.
National's delay in the timing of cuts in ACC levies gives credence to Labour's suggestion that National is worried that achieving surplus next year can no longer be guaranteed.
Robertson needs to tread carefully, however. There is a thin line between ridiculing a minister and being seen to be ridiculing the policy that minister is advocating - a policy which in this case has widespread public backing.
Furthermore, in the months since the Treasury's forecasts drastically turned from heralding a modest surplus to projecting a not-so-modest deficit, Key and English have engaged in a softening-up exercise to get the public adjusted to the surplus being delayed.
They have sought to skew the debate by suggesting, first, that meeting the target is not easy and, second, that National has got so close to the target that actually reaching it no longer matters that much.
But just how close does matter. The final size of this year's deficit will not be known until October.
Much thus hinges on the revised Treasury forecasts which will be released on Thursday and which, according to English earlier this week, will show a "small" deficit.
If the deficit really is small, most people will be relaxed about National missing the target. National may well end up reaping heaps of kudos for trying to fast forward the surplus, leaving its opponents looking churlish in their criticism.
That is why it was unnecessary and unwise for the Prime Minister to have belatedly tried to downgrade the target date as being "artificial". There was nothing artificial about the target until the Treasury's forecasts changed for the worse. It is hard to see who Key thought he was fooling.
Certainly not Andrew Little. Labour's leader slammed National's broken "promise" on the surplus "as one of the biggest political deceptions of a lifetime".
It was not clear to whose lifetime Little was referring - his, Key's or anyone else's. In most people's lifetimes, that unwanted accolade is best visited on Jim Bolger for his infamous "no ifs, no buts, no maybes" assurance back in 1990 that National would make no changes to superannuation policy.
Little needs to be careful before making such jibes. Robertson keeps running the line that Labour's Michael Cullen delivered nine Budgets, all of which produced surpluses, while English is about to deliver his seventh, all of which have been in deficit.
It is a clever line because it makes a complex issue sound simple and is easily absorbed. The more Robertson utters it, the more people will believe it. Or so Labour hopes.
Robertson is technically correct. But he has glossed over the fact that prior to the 2008 election, which Labour lost, Cullen effectively bequeathed English a deficit for the 2008-2009 year.
On the back of a domestic economic downturn and expected backwash from the global financial crisis, the 2008 pre-election update prepared by the Treasury revised what had previously been a projected $1 billion-plus surplus into a $31 million deficit.
The document went further by issuing its famous warning of a subsequent "decade of deficits", which English has averted.
The irony is that he and Key are no better off than had they stuck to their original timetable for deficit reduction.
Buoyed by the Treasury's optimistic forecasts back in 2011, they brought forward the target date by one year.
This was presumably done in order to make the matter more immediately relevant politically and success look even more impressive.
Rather than being on the defensive as they are now because of their failure to reach the 2014-15 target, rather than waiting until 2015-16, Key and English would have been sitting pretty, their economic credentials having been even more enhanced - and at a stage much closer to the next election.
Instead, the legacy of English's seventh Budget will be one of the surplus that went missing in the Bermuda Triangle of New Zealand politics and a government scoring a rather embarrassing fiscal own-goal.