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Sen. Barbara Buono claims versus the Truth-O-Meter: Mostly True, Mostly False

By Caryn Shinske December 11, 2012

It’s three weeks until 2013, but New Jersey’s gubernatorial race is officially under way after state Sen. Barbara Buono announced plans today to challenge Gov. Chris Christie next year.

But before facing Christie in November, Buono (D-Middlesex), may have to face a primary in June if Newark Mayor Cory Booker or another Democrat also announces for governor. Booker has said he is mulling either running for governor next year or running for Frank Lautenberg’s Senate seat in 2014. Lautenberg hasn’t announced officially whether he will seek re-election and Booker said this week he would announce his decision within two weeks.

With Buono now seeking the highest political office in the state, let’s look back at how she’s done against the Truth-O-Meter.

Buono, who served in the state Assembly from 1994-01 before she moved to the Senate, has had mixed results against the Truth-O-Meter, with claims landing at opposite ends.

Most recently, PolitiFact New Jersey looked into Buono claims about poverty and unemployment benefits.

Earlier this month during a Senate hearing on raising the state’s minimum wage, Buono claimed that "the number of Americans living at or below the poverty line is at its highest level since" 1964. The Truth-O-Meter determined Buono’s claim was Mostly True: the nation’s poverty rate of 15 percent in 2011 is one of the highest levels since 1964, but there have been other years where the rate has been the same or higher.

Buono took on unemployment benefits in October, when she claimed during an NJToday interview that Christie created a new category of unemployed persons – people let go for "severe misconduct" -- when he reformed the state’s unemployment insurance law in 2010.

"A few years ago, the governor -- in so-called reform of the unemployment law -- created...this new category where you could get laid off and just be totally denied unemployment benefits forever," Buono said at the time. The claim wasn’t far off from the truth, but Buono didn’t mention that her party signed off on the reform. Also, someone let go under the new change could have wages from that job count toward unemployment if the person finds another job. We rated the claim Mostly True.

Two claims about job creation and growth didn’t fare as well for Buono.

In January, Buono claimed New Jersey ranked 45th in the nation for job creation, as of November 2011. PolitiFact New Jersey reviewed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics over two timeframes and determined the claim was Mostly False. New Jersey was performing better than Buono said.

Job loss was the focus of a Buono claim in May when she said on the Dom Giordano Show on 1210 WPHT-AM that New Jersey was one of eight states nationwide to lose jobs in March. Actually, 20 states lost jobs for the time period Buono cited, and she didn’t mention a larger trend: the state had added 38,300 total jobs during the past year, from March 2011 to March 2012. That claim also was Mostly False.

Buono took on Christie in August, when she claimed in an opinion column for Politico that the governor had embarked on a tour to demand the state Legislature give a tax cut that would ultimately benefit the wealthy. Christie at one time wanted a tax cut for the wealthiest New Jerseyans but ultimately agreed before the tour to support a plan based on a proposal from Senate Democrats – Buono’s colleagues -- that would give homeowners an income tax credit based on their property tax bills. The claim earned a False ruling.

Buono earned a True in May when she targeted Christie’s visit to Wisconsin to campaign for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who ultimately survived a June recall election. Buono claimed accurately in a news release that Wisconsin had lost more jobs during the past 12 months than any other state.

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Sen. Barbara Buono claims versus the Truth-O-Meter: Mostly True, Mostly False