Barbara Buono was born in Newark, the youngest of three sisters. She grew up in Nutley, where her father, born in Italy, worked as a butcher and her mother worked in an office and as a substitute teacher. In 1975, Buono graduated with a B.A. in political science from nearby Montclair State College. She then worked three jobs – in the Montclair Public Library, as a per diem reporter for the Star-Ledger and in the Essex County Probation Department. She attended Rutgers Law School, receiving her J.D. in 1979.
Having grown up in working class North Jersey, Barbara Buono understands the important role of self-reliance. But, just as importantly, she appreciates the role government can play for those trying to make a better life for their families. After graduation from law school, Buono served as a judicial law clerk and as a public defender for the New Jersey State Department of the Public Advocate. Following her time there, she entered private practice.
In 1992, Buono won a seat on the Metuchen Council, where she stabilized tax rates without lowering the quality or availability of local services. As the Metuchen Police Commissioner, she worked to increase safety in suburban neighborhoods by instituting a community policing program and actively recruited more women and minorities to the force.
As New Jersey’s first woman to be New Jersey’s Senate Majority Leader, Barbara Buono takes a unique approach to governing. As chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, she established a reputation as a consensus-builder during the state’s challenging fiscal times. She believes strongly in inspiring a new generation of leaders committed to the values of public service. That’s why she launched the Young Women’s Leadership Program – a seminar engaging high school junior and seniors in the political process.
During the two years Senator Buono served as budget chair, New Jersey’s budget grew smaller, not bigger. She cut $4.5 billion from the state budget while increasing funds for schools and health care. Buono also sponsored a constitutional amendment to give voters a direct say on state debt. She currently serves as a member of the Health, Human Services & Senior Citizens Committee, the State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee and Vice-Chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee. While serving as Chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee, Buono led hearings on transparency at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, as well as the investigation into the Christie administration’s bungling of the Race to the Top application - which cost the state’s children $400 million in federal education funding.
With far too many public officials looking out for corporate interests and multi-millionaires, Senator Buono instead remains focused on strengthening New Jersey’s middle-class and looking out for our families. She’s working to create jobs, protect workers and make our schools work better.
Buono believes we need to fight for those on Main Street, so they get the same advantages afforded the politically connected on Wall Street. She consistently fights for New Jersey’s environment, and stands up to attempts to scale back regulation that would put our land, air and water in harm’s way.
First elected to the New Jersey State Senate in 2001, Barbara Buono was once again overwhelmingly re- elected in November 2011 – despite the race being targeted by Trenton Republicans.
She is proud to represent the 18th Legislative District – which includes East Brunswick, Edison, Helmetta, Metuchen, South Plainfield, South River and Highland Park. Previously, Buono served as a member of the General Assembly for seven years after winning a special election in December 1994 and was reelected in 1995, 1997 and 1999. In the Assembly, Buono became the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee. She is a founding member of the NJ Smart Growth Caucus and was appointed to the Intergovernmental Relations Commission.