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September 02, 2010

Auditor Candidate Hoffer Calls Out Brian Dubie's Tax Claims

For someone who's never thrown his hat into the ring before now, Doug Hoffer, the Democratic nominee for state auditor, has come out swinging like a seasoned pro against... Brian Dubie?


That's right. Hoffer hasn't been elected auditor yet, but he's already fact-checking the GOP gubernatorial candidate's numbers and challenging his claim that Vermont's income tax rate is higher than Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Hoffer called Dubie's statement "terribly misleading"  and incorrect.

"It is disingenuous to talk about Vermont's 'income tax' for the simple reason that Vermont does not have one income tax," Hoffer wrote, in a press statement. "It has a progressive tax system so residents pay at very different rates depending on their income. I am certain Mr. Dubie knows this so it makes me wonder why he would use such language."

Hoffer suggests that Mr. Dubie was referring to the "top marginal rate" which, he says, applies to less than 1 percent of all tax filers. Moreover, he says, because of differences between state tax systems, "the actual taxes paid by residents of different states is not at all what Mr. Dubie would have us believe."

Hoffer offers the following numbers, which were put together by the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Office in 2007:



Single homeowner  > 65

Single renter

Married homeowner   (2 kids)

Married homeowner   (2 kids)

Married homeowner   (3 kids)

Married homeowner   (2 kids)






























Source: Tax Study Vol. 2, Joint Fiscal Office 2007

"The discourse on economic development and tax policy are too important to be based on misinformation," Hoffer concludes. "Sadly, that has been the case for much of the last eight years. It's unfortunate that Mr. Dubie is picking up where Jim Douglas left off.  We deserve better."

I love this guy for state auditor! You should love to do this sort of stuff (crunch numbers to produce this sort of thing) if you want to be auditor, and he clearly does. Go Hoffer!

Maybe this is why Dubie's campaign staff allowed media only 12 minutes to ask questions about his 25-page plan. "Jobs, jobs, jobs" indeed. Dubie/Douglas were laying off hundreds of state employees and slashing education and mental health spending as unemployment was spiking from 2.8 percent in January 2001 — before a Republican took over to 7.3 percent by 2009. Vermont deserves better than this tired failed trickle down nonsense.

Nice work Hoffer! Can't wait to have you as auditor.

Hoffer is letting his raging class envy trip him up. Of course the tax system is progressive, most tax systems are. That doesn't mean you can't refer to "vermont's income taxes" or "Vermont's tax burden." The reality is that Hoffer seems to hate financially successful people so much that he has unilaterally decided that they don't matter. He's been belching variations of this argument out to anyone who would listen on blogs for years, and apparently he's not going to let its irrelevance to his or the Governor's campaigns from deterring him now that a handful of people are listening.

The Auditor needs to be able to work with the Governor and other top officials. Blasting out petulant nonsense like this doesn't inspire confidence that he has it in him to do that.

He sure is lucky to have 7 Days campaigning for him by posting this stuff without comment, though.

Add some mirrors to Doobie's smoke and you have the basic Doobie campaign strategy.

The numbers aren't petulant. Vermont's tax of $20,872 is less than Maine's $23,417 for the highest earner on this chart. Jimmy doesn't like Hoffer's message, so he's calling him names. Let's see your numbers, Jimmy, if there's an honest, adult argument to make.

The numbers don't include property taxes, which are higher in Vermont than in Maine on average. Other than that, I have no idea how he calculated them. It's quite a mystery, since Maine has a 6.5% flat tax on income, and Vermont's top tax rate is 8.95%.

Hoffer uses numbers from the JFO study. When pressed about why it didn't include property taxes, he's offered various reasons, but ultimately stated that they ran out of money. Great source material.

They don't include Property tax because Doobie's statement didn't include property tax.

He's "challenging his (Dubie's) claim that Vermont's income tax rate is higher than Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island."

Doobie says VT is the highest taxed, but that is generally only true for the top 1% of earners. Doobie obviously thinks those are the only people who count. That's fine, let's just be honest about it.

Keep calling names Jimmy. At the end of the day I prefer to have a Governor doesn't blatantly misrepresent Vermont's tax structure to suit his own ideologically driven tax breaks for millionaires when the state faces a $150 million revenue crisis.

Fact check (no mysteries)

Mr. Dubie specifically referred to income taxes. The figures presented are only for income taxes and, therefore, respond directly to Mr. Dubie's statement.

As for the numbers, they come from Vol. 2 of the JFO Tax Study )pp. 4 - 12). This is clearly stated underneath the table. JFO hired a CPA who filled out tax forms for the two dozen representative families in twelve different states (including Maine & Mass.).

Finally, Maine does not have a 6.5% flat tax on income; it has a progressive tax system ranging from 2% to 8.5%.

See the Maine Revenue Dept. at

or the Federation of Tax Administrators at

Jimmy, you just got schooled...

Great work Mr. Hoffer; you definitely have my respect and my vote!

"Keep calling names Jimmy. At the end of the day I prefer to have a Governor doesn't blatantly misrepresent Vermont's tax structure to suit his own ideologically driven tax breaks for millionaires when the state faces a $150 million revenue crisis."

I prefer to have a Governor who's honest about how he or she is going to address the $120 million deficit for next year. It means: a) cutting government services and programs and personnel, or b) raising taxes, or c) some combination of both.

Not ONE of the 5 Dem. gubernatorial wannabes (except, maybe, to a very limited extent Racine) was honest about the fact that they're gonna raise taxes next year big time.

If it's fair to criticize Dubie on his numbers, it's more than fair to call out all of the the Dem candidates for dishonesty-by-slience during the entire campaign in dealing with next year's budget. For refusing to say the "layoff" or the "tax" word when they all absolutely, positively know it's coming.

"Keep calling names Jimmy."

What names did I call anyone, Linda and DML? Oh that's right, none. You're letting your anger get the best of you. It's kind of ironic, actually, because the guy you're defending is notorious for resorting to namecalling in otherwise civil discussions on local blogs.

Why quote 2007 numbers, Hoffer? What would they be today? Maine's income tax rate has changed at least a couple of times since 2007 (the 6.5% figure is a few months old, repealed and is being reconsidered, mea culpa).

You may find Dubie's off-the-cuff statement misleading, but it's technically true. Your statement "the actual taxes paid by residents of different states is not at all what Mr. Dubie would have us believe," on the other hand, is completely unsupported. "Taxes" include all taxes. What would that last family pay in total taxes in each state in the last year?

Are you just running so you can keep trumpeting the incomplete study you worked on, even though the criticisms you're leveling deal with decisions that are not even arguably within the scope of the job you're applying for? Are you trying to tell us that as Auditor, you would do half a study, then use it to back up criticisms of the Governor for the next three years?

One other correction: Hoffer's numbers are from FY 2005, not 2007. That's right, five years ago. So the study was half done, and quotes five-year-old data. That's some pretty rigorous analysis.

Doug Hoffer is just what we need in Montpelier. He simply calls it as he sees it. Go Doug Hoffer!! I will be out there trying to get votes for you.

I'd prefer someone who calls it as it is. And limits "it" to issues covered by his job description.

Having met Doug Hoffer in person, I wouldn't trust him with my mother's pocketbook, let alone the state finances. He's a master at manipulating numbers to make his point. Whether they fly in the face of fact or not is entirely irrelevant to him.

I think Tom Salmon has a lot of issues, but this stunt just sealed my vote for him.


I'm not a big fan of anonymity or fake names, but fake names like this I'm especially skeptical of. It looks too much like astroturf.

I guess "Dubie Means Layoffs" is a much better name. Judge a post by its content, not a fake name the author probably took half a second to concoct. Lots of people voted for Obama and Douglas. You know how I know this? Math.

BTW, Hoffer's numbers used to make a point about Vermont's current taxes above? FIVE YEARS OLD

Jimmy, when you're through criticizing Doug for his analysis, would you have time to tell me what "numbers" Brian Dubie used to assail Vermont's current income tax rate as "the most heavily taxed in the nation"? I can't tell whether they're 1, 5, 10 years old or simply pulled out of the ether.

And, if you're going to engage in a discussion about psuedonyms you might consider attaching a last name to your Jimmy.

Jason, it's hard to know exactly which statement you're asking me to defend since neither you nor anyone else has provided a link to anything specific, and Google knows nothing about your quote wrt Dubie.

In any case, if a candidate for Auditor doesn't have time to run recent numbers to support a statement formally attacking a candidate for Governor (?!?) then it stands to reason that I'm going to let Dubie's campaign support his statements. I'm simply pointing out that throwing out 2005 numbers from a half-completed report to refute some unspecified statement having to do with current taxes probably doesn't represent the type of honest, rigorous analysis required from a state Auditor. It also doesn't inspire confidence that Hoffer won't simply use the office as a platform from which he can launch into political diatribes that have nothing to do with his duties. I mean, abandoning a discussion of your qualifications for an attack on your opponent is always a questionable move, but an attack on someone else's opponent, and such a half-baked one at that? Just bizarre.

Did you actually read what I wrote re: pseudonyms? Here's a clarification: a commenter's identity only matters when you're getting frustrated at your inability to respond to what they're saying. Welcome to 1996.

"Jimmy" - I found me one of them quotes you couldn't find on the "google" which led me directly to Lt. Gov. Dubie's website.

"A crushing tax burden makes it hard for Vermont to compete for jobs with other states, let alone China, India and other rising economic powers. Regardless of what survey you go by, Vermont consistently ranks as one of the most heavily taxed states in the nation, from property taxes to income taxes, and all the fees and other taxes in between."

and this gem:

"Vermont’s tax burden is like an eighty-pound backpack."

Beside the fact that Brian continues to bash Vermont, an obvious question might be, if Brian Dubie and Jim Douglas couldn't lighten our load over the past eight years, why should we promote Dubie? It seems to me that all this crowing about merit based analysis of job performance ought to apply to the Governor's race as well as our teachers.

Your protests about Doug, a statewide candidate, pointing out the misstatements of Brian Dubie, another statewide candidate, are faulty and weak.

"...a commenter's identity only matters when you're getting frustrated..."

Sometimes the pseudonym is the message, Jimmy. "Dubie means layoffs" is a better name, because it does not describe the author as anything other than anti-Dubie, whereas the name "Obama supporter for Dubie" in itself creates an impression of support for Dubie within a certain demographic. Now is it possible some Obama supporters will vote for Dubie? Of course. But it is also quite possible that someone who would never support Obama would use this pseudonym to create an impression of support for Dubie among Democrats that is purely artificial. That is known as "astro-turfing" defined in a nustshell as the faking of grass-roots support. It's an entirely dishonest political tactic. See my post on it from the 2006 senate race.

And it's just my opinion, but I belive a comment has much more credibility when you know who wrote it. The most effective speeches and writing establish the presenter's credentials on a topic sbefore the argument is even presented. That can't happen anonymously. Hiding your identity will always handicap your credibility, as I see it.

"Sometimes the pseudonym is the message, Jimmy."

You were responding to something I said to Jason but, ummm, congratulations on your ongoing efforts toward efficient astroturfing detection algorithms, I guess.

"I found me one of them quotes you couldn't find on the 'google'"

If you'd slow down and read what I wrote, I said that I couldn't find YOUR quote. When you quote something, it implies that the person you're quoting said exactly that. I can obviously find stuff about Dubie and tax burden, it's right on his site. For the third time, I have no interest in debating Dubie vs. whomever or whether his larger point about taxes is accurate. I was pointing out that an attempt to debate it using half-finished, five year old data is ill-advised, especially when you're applying for a job where you have to be rigorous and accurate.

As an aside, without getting into why, it fills me with mirth when a "Vermont internet expert" speaks patronizingly to me wrt how the internet works, so feel free to keep it up. Maybe you can use the phrase "series of tubes" or something, I think that one still gets laughs around here.

"Your protests about Doug... are faulty and weak."

Don't bother telling me why, or responding to any of the other points I actually made, though. That might actually require a bit of thought, and who wants to bother with that?

I should have said "moniker." The moniker is the message. That sounds cooler.

Mr. Farrell:

"if Brian Dubie and Jim Douglas couldn't lighten our load over the past eight years, why should we promote Dubie?"

That comment doesn't reflect much thought. Now why exactly do you think Douglas and Dubie might not have made much progress in lightening our load over the years? Could it be that, oh, maybe, they were blocked by the anti-business, pro-tax legislature? You can't prevent someone from doing what they want to do, and them blame them for not accomplishing it. That's ridiculous.

And, by the way, you can't blame a Lt. Gov., who has no power in Vt., for not reducing the tax burden.

From the Rutland Herald...

"'It's very clear: Vermont does not have a crushing tax burden — period — and anyone who says it does is lying,' said Doug Hoffer... Hoffer said he can't provide any data proving he's right. But neither, he said, can Dubie.

'He's made a statement with a very important assumption underneath it, and the question is has Dubie provided information that will support that assumption, Hoffer said. 'If he has not, then one leg of his stupid stool is gone.'"

OK, so a candidate for Auditor is now spending most of his time attacking a candidate for Governor, calling him (and the editor of Forbes magazine) a "liar" and at least one his ideas "stupid," while admitting that he can't support his assertions.


Does the fact that I bust my ass working all the time and feel that I am crushed by taxes in Vermont between the income, property, and sales taxes, make me, too, a "liar" and "stupid," Mr. Hoffer, just like Dubie?

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Hoffer, for dismissing me and thousands of other Vermonters like me for the ignorant fleas that we are. I'm so glad that your determined belief that Vermonters are undertaxed doesn't give a sh** about my foolish working-taxpayer perception.

"'It is disingenuous to talk about Vermont's 'income tax' for the simple reason that Vermont does not have one income tax,' Hoffer wrote, in a press statement"

Hoffer says that he never sent out a press release about this, that it was a "blog entry." Which means one of two things: either he's lying and he did send out a press release, or he just sent this to 7D, considering this a blog on which he can write entries.

So did Hoffer send this "press statement" out to multiple outlets or not?

I think he said in his VPR debate yesterday that it was a blog entry.

I know he said that. He specifically said that he hasn't issued any press releases about Brian Dubie. Picard says above that this story arose from a "press statement." So either it was a statement to 7D alone, or Hoffer was lying.

Jimmy, as I recall — and I couldn't locate the email in which I received Mr. Hoffer's material — it was a written statement, but it was not specifically or uniquely addressed to me or Seven Days.

Why does this matter?

"Why does this matter?"

To me it matters because when your opponent is Tom Salmon, but you go out of your way to get involved in the governor's race and you call one of the gubernatorial candidates a liar, then you'd better not lie yourself.

BTW, Hoffer has been maniacally screaming for years, with his fingers in his ears and a blindfold on, that Vermonters are not taxed more than the residents of other states. And he lashes out viciously at anyone who has the nerve to say otherwise. All studies -- and there have been many -- that disagree with him are "flawed" or "biased." Oh, but of course although he's a Prog HE'S not biased. Apparently he's either the ONLY person in America who knows how how to do a tax burden study, or he's the ONLY honest and well-intentioned person who has ever done one. Instead of saying he disagrees with the information that Dubie relies upon, he calls Dubie a "liar" and his ideas "stupid." How nice! And yet when he does his own tax comparisons he leaves out Vermont's property tax, and therefore did not do a true total tax burden analysis! How the christ can you completely ignore the property tax, but say that you've done a valid tax comparison??? And the only conclusion you can come to about why he is so vicious, er, passionate about this is that he desperately WANTS Vermonters to pay more taxes and WANTS government to spend more money. Why? Why is that his business? His burning desire to convince people that they are not taxed enough seems downright pathological. And if you want government to spend more money and citizens to pay more taxes, then at least be honest about that, instead of backdooring the issue by insisting that we're undertaxed and that if we believe otherwise we're liars and stupid.

He's running for Auditor, for God's sake, not "Tax Policymaker-in-Chief." What business does he have inserting himself into the governor's race and calling only one of the candidates (the Republican, of course) a liar, when, if you're going to get into it, there's at least as much to talk about on the "ethics" front with the other candidate?

"Why does this matter?"

For the third time, he said he didn't send out a press release about this. If he did, then he lied. Do you think it doesn't matter when a candidate for office lies, especially about a press release wherein he calls other people "liars"?

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