Paul Burka

What I’ve Learned

Mar 23, 2015 By Paul Burka

Paul Burka bids farewell to Texas Monthly—and wonders what happened to the Texas he once knew. 

Texas Barbecue Appreciation Society

Mar 2, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

For forty years, Paul Burka has been a part of Texas Monthly. His retirement officially begins today, on Texas Independence Day. His legacy will live on in Texas Monthly’s list of the best and worst legislators, and his celebrated career has made an impact on Texas politics. But what few know…

Texas Barbecue Monthly

May 9, 2014 By Daniel Vaughn

As you read this, Texas Monthly’s editor, Jake Silverstein, is moving the last few items out of his office. He has traded his view of the Texas Capital building for that of a Duane Reade and is moving to the New York Times Magazine. We’ll miss that guy. And I personally owe…

Dollars and Sense

Jan 20, 2013 By fscottmccown

When the Legislature meets in January, lawmakers know they won’t be able to cut their way to a balanced budget. Instead, they should do what a certain Republican governor did more than twenty years ago: raise taxes.

Join Texas Monthly at the Texas Book Festival

Jan 20, 2013 By Texas Monthly

TEXAS MONTHLY is proud to be a sponsor of the Texas Book Festival, which is held in Austin on October 16 and 17. For a complete listing of events, check out the official schedule. To see which sessions TEXAS MONTHLY editors and writers are participating in, see the schedule…

Show Me the Money

Jan 20, 2013 By Kevin Sullivan

Paul Burka talks about cutting $18 billion from the Texas budget, separating the essential from the nonessential, and spending money on bricks and mortar.

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

Every family has its myths. Some are intended to reveal, and some are intended to conceal, and sometimes the intentions can get confused. The problem with myth, however, is that it can overpower history. That’s what happened in the case of my father, who died when I was four. Only when I finally learned the truth about him could I come to appreciate him as a real person.

My 15 minutes of fame

Aug 19, 2011 By Paul Burka

The good people who sign my paychecks have asked me to do radio and television commentary regarding Governor Perry, when news organizations make requests. I have been doing a lot of this recently, including NBC Nightly News and The News Hour. They mainly want to know who Rick Perry is.

A response to Michael Quinn Sullivan

Jun 29, 2011 By Paul Burka

Michael Quinn Sullivan has a bone to pick with me. I am the subject of a blog post by Sullivan published on the Empower Texans web site yesterday under the headline, “Texas Monthly: Disclosure-Free Zone.” Sullivan objects to the fact that in an April column about higher ed reforms, I did not disclose that I have taught at UT from time to time. Here are some pertinent paragraphs: Paul Burka, the “senior executive editor” at Texas Monthly has taken to defending the higher education status quo – skyrocketing tuition and a lack of transparency. He follows the administrative bureaucracy party line by deriding reformers, disparaging them and calling motivations into question. Couldn’t be because he has a financial interest in the status quo, could it? Mr. Burka received $10,159 in compensation ($9,295 in salary) for teaching 13 students. (NOTE: the numbers are from UT’s own data, which the institution says may or may not be valid or accurate.) He hasn’t disclosed in any recent writings supporting the higher-ed establishment that he is a “visiting lecturer” for the University of Texas, teaching a three credit-hour class – ironically titled “Right And Wrong In Politics.” Mr. Sullivan has a point, though he overplays it to a ridiculous extreme, as is his custom. I should have included a parenthetical statement in that April column saying that I had taught at UT on various occasions in the past (though I was not teaching there or receiving compensation at the time that I wrote the column). But it is far-fetched to suggest that I have any permanent attachment to UT, or a financial motivation to defend the university. I am not an academic, I am a journalist. Over the past twenty years or so, I have been fortunate enough to teach courses at UT (and also at St. Edwards). During that time, I have written several editorial columns about the university. One was supportive of tuition deregulation; one was critical of a watered-down degree program I referred to as “B.A. Lite” (this one, alas, is not yet available online). I have not tried to hide the fact that I teach at UT; in 2001, for example, I wrote about volunteering to evaluate applications for admission to the Plan II honors program, as I was eligible to do as an instructor. I have also written a skeptical column about the athletic department’s efforts to find a home for the Longhorns after the breakup of the Big XII conference. In short, I choose subjects that Texas Monthly believes are important, and I try to call ‘em as I see ‘em. I leave it to readers to judge for themselves whether they believe that my reporting on UT is influenced by what Mr. Sullivan refers to as my “financial interest in the status quo,” or whether it reflects my strongly held personal belief in the importance of allowing state universities to pursue excellence free of political interference.

Banned Wagon

Dec 23, 2009 By Paul Burka

Ross Ramsey, writing in the Texas Tribune today, has a story that the Hutchison campaign asked that I not be allowed to be a panelist on the gubernatorial debate on the grounds that KERA, the Dallas PBS station that is hosting the debate, and NPR both have policies against opinion…


Jun 24, 2009 By Paul Burka

Here are the numbers. Commentary follows. Approval Ratings Obama as president Approve 68% Disapprove 29% Obama economic policy Approve 63% Disapprove 34% Rick Perry Approve 57% Disapprove 30% Kay Bailey Hutchison Approve 65% Disapprove 17% John Cornyn Approve 55% Disapprove 19% Texas Legislature Approve 58% Disapprove 28% Democratic Primary (Governor) Kinky 10% Schieffer 6% Van de Putte 3% (withdrawn) U.S. Senate White (D) 9% Dewhurst (R) 4% Abbott (R) 4% Ames Jones (R) 3% R Williams (R) 3% Sharp (D) 2% Shapiro (R) 2% M Williams (R) 2% * * * * I don't think these numbers are good for Perry. Forget the 12-point lead. The number that jumps out is 33%. That's all? This is a lower percentage than he got in the 2006 general election, when he famously won with 39%. Undecideds represent a plurality. And the respondents supposedly represent Republican primary voters. (I say "supposedly" because the support for gay unions in yesterday's issues poll was very high -- in the upper fifties -- considering the overwhelming support for the constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage. Furthermore, according to the poll's methodology, the sample for Republican primary voters was very small -- 267 -- and had a MOE of +/- 6.04%.) In the Rasmussen poll earlier this year, around the time of the secession flap, Perry had a 42-38 lead over Hutchison. Other numbers seem unfavorable for Perry as well. He has based his campaign on making Hutchison the candidate of Washington and positioning himself as the candidate of Texas. He's been hammering away at "Washington" since September, and at Kay "Bailout" Hutchison, but Obama's approval rating in Texas is way up there, similar to what it is nationally. Hutchison is in the stratosphere at 65% favorable to 17% unfavorable. That is going to be hard for him to tear down. Perry's own favorables are the best they have ever been, but he is the incumbent, and the election is going to be about him -- unless he can somehow manage to redefine her. It's hard to redefine someone with a miniscule 17% disapproval rating. The Democratic gubernatorial primary and the U.S. Senate race are too speculative to comment on. The only number of interest is White's lead over Sharp, but since everyone is in single digits, and the race won't exist unless Hutchison resigns her seat, it is hardly worth mentioning.

GOPAC wants my opinion: Here it is

May 8, 2009 By Paul Burka

I came home last night to find a GOPAC survey in my e-mail queue. I tend to vote in Republican primaries (4 of the 6 elections starting in 1998), since that is the only election that matters for statewide candidates, so I assume that is how they found me. Here are the questions and my answers: 1. Do you support your state Governor's authority to reject stimulus funds from the federal government? Yes -- I support the governor's authority. I don't support the rejection. No Undecided 2. The Pennsylvania Republican Party recently passed a unanimous resolution urging their lawmakers to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act that would eliminate an employee's right to a secret ballot. Do you support efforts like this in your own state to oppose "card check" legislation? Yes -- I live in a right to work state, so this is not likely to be an issue here, but I don't like the card check law at all. It's overreaching. No Undecided 3. Do you believe our elected officials should continue aggressively fighting the War on Terror? Yes -- But I'm skeptical about Obama's Afghanistan policy. Afghanistan was important only only because it was a base for bin Laden's training camps. Those camps are gone. Al Qaeda is in Pakistan. The only reason for sending troops to Afghanistan now is to fight the Taliban. Is that worth sacrificing American lives for? If the Taliban take over again, so what? Bin Laden isn't coming back. The action is in the border regions of Pakistan. Afghanistan is not strategically important today. No Undecided 4. Do you support the decision to close down Guantanamo Bay and bring suspected terrorists to be tried and housed in the Continental United States? Yes -- Gitmo is a symbol for the world of America turning its back on its own values. I think we should get rid of it, try terrorists in the courts, and clap those who are convicted in maximum security prisons. No Undecided 5. Are you in favor of off-shore drilling? Yes -- Drill, baby, drill. Especially off California and Florida. No Undecided

Dear Paul

May 1, 2009 By Paul Burka

Dear Paul, You have covered me throughout my career in public service to Texas so you remember I was a proud Republican even when we could hold our gatherings in a phone booth. Having helped make the GOP the dominant party in Texas in the late 90s, I am committed…

Free at last

Apr 30, 2009 By Paul Burka

Arlen Specter’s party switch gives new life to the old issue of if and when Hutchison should resign her seat. Now that the Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority, she is no longer under any compulsion to remain in the Senate to prevent the Democrats from passing their agenda. She can…

Committees — Winners and Losers

Feb 12, 2009 By Paul Burka

The big winners, of course, were the ABCs. Each of the eleven received a chairmanship. Six are on Calendars. The chairs: Pitts/Appropriations: as expected Cook/Environmental Regulation: A story made the rounds yesterday that he wasn't happy, but he lives in an area that is affected by coal plants and cement plants, and he has a green majority that can take the committee in a new direction. I think he'll grow to like it. Geren/House Administration: as expected Keffer/Energy Resources: as expected Kuempel/Licensing and Procedure: very interesting appointment. He'll have to deal with gambling. Solomons/State Affairs: This session, Solomons will be at the front mike and Phil King will be at the back mike. The Craddick D's did not fare well: --Dukes is back on Appropriations --Pena lost his chairmanship but is on Ways & Means --Dutton lost his chairmanship. He's on Corrections and Pub Ed --Edwards wasn't around last session. He's on Appropriations --Flores lost his chairmanship but is on Appropriations --Giddings lost her chairmanship but is on Appropriations --Guillen lost his seat on Appropriations (vice-chair) and is on Border & Intergovernmental Affairs and Transportation. Border doesn't do anything, and Transportation doesn't matter much when there is only one major highway in Starr County. Big loser. --T. King lost his chairmanship. He is on Culture, Recreation, and Tourism and Natural Resources. At least these are useful in a rural district. --McClendon got the San Antonio exemption from Craddick D punishment. She has a chairmanship (Rules and Resolutions) and seats on Appropriations and Transportation. --Turner is not a happy camper. The former speaker pro-tem used his seniority to get on State Affairs, but he is not on Appropriations. His other committee is Business and Industry. He doesn't have a portfolio for his pet issues such as CHIP. Readers will recall that the Craddick D's worried that the mainstream Democrats would seek retribution against them for their apostasy, despite assurances to the contrary. The fate of the Craddick D's, above, suggests that they had good reason to worry. Who else is in the penalty box?

Ich bin ein Speaker!

Jan 5, 2009 By Eileen Smith

Burka and Eileen discuss probable Speaker Joe Straus, Craddick’s exit, horse racing, and whether bridge qualifies as gambling. Honorably mentioned: John Smithee, Burt Solomons, Dan Gattis, Jim Keffer, and playing the ponies. (And yes, I am wearing a scarf over my turtleneck. My space heater gave out, and I can’t…

For Auld Lang Speaker

Dec 31, 2008 By Eileen Smith

The final video of 2008. (You can thank me later.) Stick a fork in Craddick? Is he really done? Really? Honorably Mentioned: Gattis, Smithee, Solomons, Kolkhorst, Chisum, Straus, Hamilton, McCall, Dunnam, and just about every other House Member you can think of And who was that anonymous Republican source?…


Dec 12, 2008 By Paul Burka

The poll was conducted by Voter Consumer Research between December 7 and December 9. The telephone survey included 601 general election voters and 466 Republican primary voters. The margin of error for the general election survey was +/- 4.1%, and +/- 4.6% for Republican primary voters. Favorability: * 67% of…

Secret Disservice

Dec 8, 2008 By Eileen Smith

Your daily space queen video! It’s worth clicking on just to see what I look like when I forget to sit on a telephone book. Paul Burka on the secret speaker’s ballot, and why he was for it before he he was against it. (Flip flopper.) Honorably mentioned: Speaker Craddick,…

I Swear Paul’s Here Somewhere

Dec 5, 2008 By Eileen Smith

OK, so maybe he hasn’t “posted” any “updates” on Kay Bailey Hutchison’s exploratory committee, but I did catch Burka in the hall to do a video with me to at least talk about the interview he had with her yesterday. And I’m all, yesterday? She never returns my calls. In…

State Secrets

Nov 25, 2008 By Eileen Smith

Burka and Eileen preview the legislative sunset: How does an agency “misplace” $1 billion? Or lose one-third of its criminal files? Or let the governor’s mansion get torched? Or screw Texas homeowners? Don’t get mad, get even. Honorably mentioned: Steve Ogden, Lois Kolkhorst, John Carona, and Wayne Smith. Not so…

Tuition de-reg: Will it be an issue in the speaker’s race?

Nov 23, 2008 By Paul Burka

Here’s the problem for Tom Craddick. The House passed tuition deregulation in 2003 for one reason and one reason only: The speaker twisted Republicans’ arms to get the votes. Almost six years later, tuition and fees at Texas’s public university have risen by an average of 50%, according to Robert…

Show the Speaker Voting Me

Nov 12, 2008 By Eileen Smith

Eileen and Paul talk about if the Speaker even matters, Craddicks and Anti-Craddicks, and whether Tom was popular in high school. Honorably Mentioned: Dan Branch, Lois Kolkhorst, Pete Gallego, Jim Dunnam, and, of course, Speaker Craddick…

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Place in Line

Nov 10, 2008 By Eileen Smith

Latest video: Burka on the Speaker’s race, naming names, the “Craddick Effect” (copyright pending), and broken pledges. For the first time, Paul wonders if Craddick can keep his post. Honorably Mentioned: the candidates, the Conservative Coalition, Plan B, and Warren Chisum. (Note: If you are having trouble viewing…

Bringing Down the House

Nov 7, 2008 By Eileen Smith

Eileen talks with Burka about the cantankerous Speaker’s race, a House divided, Craddick D’s, ABC’s, and 2010 with KBH. Honorable video mentions include: Reps. Tommy Merritt; Jim Keffer; Pete Gallego; Craig Eiland; Dan Gattis; Alan Ritter; and Sylvester Turner.

The Speaker’s Race: Tomorrow

Nov 4, 2008 By Paul Burka

Here is what to watch for. If Craddick has the votes, he will lay out the names. If he doesn’t lay out the names, he doesn’t have the votes.

The Democratic Pledge: why it won’t work

Nov 4, 2008 By Paul Burka

Why is it that the Democrats insist on trying to act bossy? Is it genetic? Can’t they help themselves? The demand upon party discipline before they have won a majority is foolish. My last post on this subject was, I have to admit, a bit on the hysterical side, and…

Bum Deal

Jan 1, 2001 By Anne Dingus and Paul Burka

Executive editor Paul Burka and senior editor Anne Dingus tell the story behind January's cover story, "The 2001 Bum Steer Awards".

Roar of the Crowd

Jan 1, 1998 By Texas Monthly

Race Matters I was captivated by paul Burka’s observation in “What’s Black and White and Red-faced All Over?” [December 1997] that “the only way to open the door to more minority students is to broaden—that means reduce—the standards for admissions.” The real question for society is this: Shall we lower…

Paul In The Family

Sep 30, 1996 By Evan Smith

Anyone who knows executive editor Paul Burka would have a hard time imagining him as a cowboy, so perhaps it seems farfetched that he was the one to write this month’s story about the plight of a small working ranch in Uvalde (“Home on the Range”). “I’m a native…