The dean of the Capitol press corps, senior executive editor Paul Burka joined the staff of Texas Monthly one year after the magazine’s founding, in 1973. For nearly forty years he has led the magazine’s political coverage and spearheaded its storied roundup of the Best and Worst Legislators each biennium. A lifelong Texan, he was born in Galveston, graduated from Rice University with a B.A. in history, and received a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law.

Burka is a member of the State Bar of Texas and spent five years as an attorney with the Texas Legislature, where he served as counsel to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Burka won a National Magazine Award for reporting excellence in 1985 and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award. He is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and teaches at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a frequent guest discussing politics on national news programs on MSNBC, Fox, NBC, and CNN.

Articles by Paul Burka

Should the Gas Tax Be Increased?

Feb 21, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

Senator Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) has proposed paying for highway construction by increasing the gasoline tax. Empower Texans' Michael Quinn Sullivan has slammed that idea, but he should explain why he believes is better to build highways with bonds than with taxes.

Citizens Not So United?

Feb 19, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

A potential crack has opened in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. The Associated Press has reported that the Court will hear a challenge to campaign finance laws limiting how much an individual can give to political campaigns.  The justices agreed to hear an appeal from an Alabama resident…

Hostile Regents on the March Against UT President

Feb 15, 2013 By Paul Burka

I spoke at length to an unimpeachable source in state government today who said developments this week have been unfavorable to Powers, who has been hounded for months by regents appointed by Rick Perry. For instance, regents unfriendly to Powers have reopened a review of the University of Texas Law School Foundation and…

The State of Taxes

Feb 12, 2013 By Paul Burka

Texas won’t get its financial house in order until lawmakers have a thoughtful conversation about the T-word. Don’t hold your breath.

The New Look of BurkaBlog

Feb 12, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

Since we launched the redesigned, I’ve received lots of feedback from my readers. Now that the editors have had a little bit of time to work through some of the kinks, I wanted to address some of your concerns. During the redesign we switched to a new commenting…

Do the D’s Have a Shot at Cornyn?

Feb 11, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

On January 30, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, released a poll on the U.S. Senate race in Texas. Did someone just say, What U.S. Senate race in Texas? Well, PPP surveyed John Cornyn’s prospects of keeping his seat against four Democratic opponents. As PPP put it, most…

Opening Moves

Feb 7, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

Democrats have signaled their intention to offer an amendment to restore the education spending cuts made last session, which signals to everyone who is watching that the Democratic strategy is going to pretty much be this: make the Republicans pay for every bad vote.

Charters v. PEG

Feb 6, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

As most readers know, one of the battles of the 83rd Legislature is likely to occur over the use of public funds for private schools. Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and Senator Dan Patrick are backing the proposal. (At a recent Texas Tribune event, Speaker Straus urged caution on the issue.) The…

UT (nervously) awaits next batch of Perry regents

Feb 5, 2013 By Paul Burka

From a statement by the Texas Exes, the university’s alumni association: The terms of three distinguished members of The University of Texas System Board of Regents expired this past Friday. These appointments will be made by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. * * * * If the new regents are…

School finance decision expected today

Feb 4, 2013 By Paul Burka

State district judge John Dietz is set to rule today following closing arguments in the school finance litigation. His decision could have huge ramifications for the state budget. It’s hard to argue that the state’s support for public education meets either the efficiency standard or the adequacy standard. The target…

Perry and Abbott: deal or no deal?

Feb 3, 2013 By Sonia Smith and Paul Burka

If so, what is it? Brad Watson of WFAA-TV in Dallas made big news with his report of a potential deal between Perry and Abbott. From the station’s website: In an exclusive WFAA interview Wednesday, [Jan. 31] Gov. Rick Perry said Attorney General Greg Abbott has told him…

State of the Website

Jan 31, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

Today marks another big step forward at Texas Monthly, thanks to the hard work of countless people on our staff (and countless late nights that turned into early mornings). We’re launching a new and vastly improved website, which I hope you’ll spend some time browsing. One of the…

BREAKING: House committee assignments

Jan 31, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

Well, today is the day that the Speaker’s honeymoon ends and the members’s complaints begin. Last session the Republicans held 25 chairs and the Democrats 10. This time around it’s Republicans 24 and Democrats 14. Of course, the Democrats picked up seats in the last election cycle, but I suspect…

Cornyn, Cruz oppose Kerry confirmation

Jan 30, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

The emergence of Ted Cruz has made life miserable for Minority Whip John Cornyn. Cruz constantly has the senior senator for Texas looking over his right shoulder. Cornyn voted against Kerry as secretary of state, as did Cruz, but it’s likely that he did so only to inoculate himself against…

Not with a bang but a whimper

Jan 30, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

And so ends, for all practical purposes, the long Perry governorship. In an article I posted on Saturday, previewing the State of the State address, I asked, “Is it his last?” The tenor of his speech yesterday affirms that it is. Perry spoke mainly about the state he loves:…

“Battleground Texas”

Jan 24, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

I have long been a skeptic about the prospects for revitalization of the state Democratic party, but recent developments call for re-evaluation. For one thing, the new finance chair of the Democratic National Committee is Henry Munoz III, of San Antonio. Some of his fundraising is likely to benefit…

Campbell, Davis draw two-year terms

Jan 23, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

As a result, Donna Campbell will have a very short time to get adjusted to the Senate before she has to defend her seat in a Republican primary. A four-year term would have solved that problem. Several members from San Antonio are thought to have their eyes on the seat,…

The way politics ought to be

Jan 21, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

I’m not a regular reader of, but I was struck by the piece Erick Erickson posted late yesterday about President Obama and his second inauguration. The headline of the column is “The Loyal Opposition,” and I’d like to take the liberty of posting it here in its entirety:…

Recommended reading: John Weaver on the future of the GOP

Jan 21, 2013 By Texas Monthly and Paul Burka

This article appeared in RealClearPolitics last week. Scott Conroy writes about Texas Republican consultant John Weaver’s concern about extremism in the Republican party: For Republican operatives who believe their party’s core has taken a self-destructive turn to the far right — and that the GOP must recalibrate significantly…

2011: The Best and Worst Legislators

Jan 21, 2013 By Paul Burka and Nate Blakeslee

For the Eighty-second Legislature (our twentieth at the Capitol), everything old was new again: the state faced a budget deficit; the governor harbored presidential ambitions; the members of the Best list were hard to find; and the names on the Worst list picked themselves.


Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

What it is and isn’t. Who has it and who doesn’t. Our 2005 list.


Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

From H. Ross Perot to the people who will run Texas in the nineties, from couples with clout to the Brownwood Mafia, we present the most complete guide to power in Texas ever compiled.

Right Place, Right Time

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

A year ago Rick Perry’s political future seemed to be in peril. Now he’s looking past the 2010 elections—and all the way to the White House. Think I’m kidding? How about a cup of tea?

The Eighteen Billion Dollar Man

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

Texas is facing an unprecedented deficit in the next legislative session, so to help our poor, overworked elected officials, I went ahead and balanced the budget for them. And good Lord! It wasn’t pretty.

Can Rick Perry Stand On His Own?

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

And just how long are his coattails? Texas politics is always interesting, but the 2002 election—with two formidable tickets, four big races, and a healthy debate over whether this is still a two-party state—promises to be one for the books.

Oil and Water

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

The spill in the Gulf is just the latest in a string of catastrophic regulatory failures that prove how incompetent government is. And how important it is.

The Bloody Billion

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

Oh, how our legislators are moaning and groaning as they try to cut the state budget. But we’ve slashed, chopped, trimmed, pared, and whittles our way through it—and save $1 billion. It wasn’t that hard. Really.

Life After Oil

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

Midland’s energy companies are still laying people off a decade after the bottom of the bust. But—surprise—the city’s economy is booming again.

The Case Against John Cornyn

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

If it pleases the court, the question before you is whether the attorney general of Texas has served his constituents or, as his critics charge, only his own political interests. What is your verdict?