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Auditor Candidates Envision Different Roles For The Office

The auditor serves as a watchdog over the operations of state government and conducts what are known as "performance audits" to evaluate the effectiveness of specific programs, and the major party candidates for state auditor view the role of the office very differently.

Republican candidate Dan Feliciano thinks the work of the office should be expanded. He wants the auditor to work with lawmakers as bills are being considered.

He says he wants to be certain that specific review criteria are included in key bills to ensure that the legislation can be properly evaluated if it becomes law.

"All of those things need to be proactively thought out or shared with the legislators. You can't influence the policy but at least you can ask those questions and say, 'You realize this really isn't auditable and I can't guarantee that it's going to save money or I know how to react if something does go bad,’” he says.

Incumbent Doug Hoffer is the Democratic-Progressive candidate and has served two terms in office.

He says he doesn't support Feliciano's approach, and says he thinks it will undermine the effectiveness of his office.

"I think he may be misunderstanding our role,” Hoffer says of Feliciano. “We can't go into a department and tell them how to set their own goals and which metrics to use and how to collect and verify the data. That's their job. If I do that then I completely compromise the independence of my office and we can't audit the work once they've done it."

Feliciano insists that his "proactive" approach will serve the interests of the state. Right now he says the auditor is "driving with a muddied windshield and looking backwards through a big rear view mirror."

He says the work of the office should look to future assessments.

"What's over the horizon we need to be aware of, and the auditor can't be looking in the rear view mirror the whole time,” he says. “We need to be proactive bringing up issues and concerns that are risk issues to the state. It just can't be, ‘You put this program in place, we audit it, you can have the measures, here's some recommendations, we'll come back and do another audit next year and hope for the best.’”

To highlight the candidates’ different approaches, Hoffer points to the recent signing of a health care payment reform plan known as “all-payer.” The Green Mountain Care Board gave its approval to the proposal this week and it will take several years to fully implement it.

Hoffer says his office should not be involved in the policy decisions that help determine the scope and the basic operations of the plan.

"The question is, as this rolls out, does my office have a role to play in evaluating the impact of the implementation of this new model?” Hoffer says. “That's my job, is to evaluate the way the players implement this new approach, not to tell them. I'm not a legislator, I'm not a policy maker, I'm not the governor."

The two candidates do agree on one thing: They both say they want to make the work of state government as transparent as possible in the future.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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