Born in Bennington, Vermont. Offner graduated from Amherst College in 1964. He received his masters and doctorate degrees from Princeton University. In 1974, Offner was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly from La Crosse, Wisconsin. Then in 1976, he was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate serving until 1984. After his legislative service, Offner worked in Ohio in public health. Then he worked for Daniel Patrick Moynihan as a legislative aide. Finally he worked for the Washington, D.C. government, was a professor at Georgetown University, and worked at the Urban Institute.