Critical to a sustainable energy future are microbial platforms that can process aromatic carbons from the largely untapped reservoir of lignin and plastic feedstocks. Comamonas species present promising bacterial candidates for such platforms because they can use a range of natural and xenobiotic aromatic compounds and often possess innate genetic constraints that avoid competition with sugars. However, the metabolic reactions of these species are underexplored, and the regulatory mechanisms are unknown. Here we identify multilevel regulation in the conversion of lignin-related natural aromatic compounds, 4-hydroxybenzoate and vanillate, and the plastics-related xenobiotic aromatic compound, terephthalate, in Comamonas testosteroni KF-1. Transcription-level regulation controls initial catabolism and cleavage, but metabolite-level thermodynamic regulation governs fluxes in central carbon metabolism. Quantitative 13C mapping of tricarboxylic acid cycle and cataplerotic reactions elucidates key carbon routing not evident from enzyme abundance changes. This scheme of transcriptional activation coupled with metabolic fine-tuning challenges outcome predictions during metabolic manipulations. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].