- William "Bill" Thomas
William "Bill" Thomas
Former Congressman/American Enterprise Institute Visiting Fellow
California State University, Bakersfield
Throughout his distinguished career in the U.S. House of Representatives, William Thomas championed legislative reforms, spending his career strengthening health care legislation, reducing tax burdens, advocating free and open trade, improving transportation, and protecting workers’ pensions.
Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1979, Mr. Thomas represented the 22nd District of California for 28 years. In 2001, he was elected Chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. He retired from Congress in 2007 and is now a Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
As chairman of Ways and Means, Mr. Thomas secured $2 trillion in tax relief, was critical to the passage of the federal transportation bill and the Pension Protection Act, and created an energy tax package to strengthen the nation’s energy infrastructure while promoting alternative sources. His legislative accomplishments include authoring the Medicare Preservation Act of 1995; helping pass the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996; serving as administrative chairman of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare; and chairing the conference committee for the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003.
Mr. Thomas successfully earmarked $722 million in federal transportation funding for Kern County roads, garnered $40 million in congressional funding for the Valley Fever Vaccine Project, and obtained $14.7 million for improvements to Bakersfield’s Meadows Field Airport. His commitment to California State University, Bakersfield includes his successful leadership of a $1 million campaign to match a $1 million challenge grant to help move the athletics program to NCAA Division I.
Mr. Thomas joined the Bakersfield College faculty as a political science instructor in 1965, and was elected to the California State Assembly in 1974. He earned an associate’s degree from Santa Ana Community College and bachelor and master’s degrees in political science from San Francisco State University.
In recognition of his legislative achievements and his commitment to Kern County, the city of Bakersfield and the university, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Bakersfield are proud to confer upon William Thomas the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.