OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated Thursday evening he is not yet satisfied with efforts to dissolve Walt Disney World’s special self-governing district.
As such, the GOP leader vowed to pursue “additional legislative action” aimed at preventing the Sunshine State from suffering any tax income fallout or legalities following recent efforts to dismantle a status first established for the entertainment giant in 1967 when construction of the current theme park was in the planning stages.
DeSantis make his remarks during a town hall-style event hosted by Fox News’ Laura Ingraham in Orlando.
“There’s going to be additional legislative action,” said the governor. “We’ve contemplated that. We know what we’re going to do, so stay tuned. That’ll all be apparent.”
DeSantis signed a bill into law last week to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, effective June 1, 2023. The legislation arose from Disney’s criticism of the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law that limits discussion of sexuality and gender in public schools.
Disney has not made any direct public statements about the new law dissolving Reedy Creek. The law is just two pages long and avoids any discussion of details about how to unwind a half-century of infrastructure deals, nor does it lay out the next steps in the complicated process.
Reedy Creek said dissolving the district is not legal unless the state pays off $1 billion in Reedy Creek’s bond debt.
And some officials and residents in neighboring Orange and Osceola counties fear they’ll get stuck with a $163 million annual tax bill if Reedy Creek goes away.
“Disney pays the same taxes” as anyone else, Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph told CNN. That includes property taxes to Reedy Creek for several public services around the Disney properties such as emergency services and road work.
“One side of the ledger will say zero and the other side will say negative $163 million” against Orange County if the Reedy Creek district goes away, Randolph added.
The Fox News host asked DeSantis if “this [could] end up backfiring on the people of Florida?”
DeSantis responded: “Disney will pay its debts. Disney will, for the first time, actually live under the same laws as everybody else in Florida. Imagine that.”
Ingraham went on to ask if Reedy Creek’s “characterization of the statute is inaccurate.”
The governor noted that the GOP-controlled state legislature still has time to address issues before the special status must be dissolved.
Earlier in the day Thursday, Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ spokeswoman, noted on Twitter that it would be a “few weeks” before a final plan is announced to assure that taxpayers won’t suffer from any changes to Disney’s status.
“If it’s true that the repeal of the special district would hand Disney a tax break, and the local taxpayers would be on the hook for this bailout to benefit Disney… then why would Disney oppose repealing their special district?” she wrote, adding that the plan will ensure that Disney, the largest employer in the state, will pay its requisite share of taxes.
For his part, the governor has assured Floridians won’t see any increase in taxes due to the dissolution of Reedy Creek, and insisted that Disney will pay its “fair share” of them. He has also described the law calling for the dissolution of the special status as “the first step in what’s going to be a process to make sure that Disney should not run its own government.”
A survey released earlier this month regarding the revocation of Disney’s special status was a winner for DeSantis in terms of public opinion.
The poll from the Trafalgar Group specifically found that Americans are not happy with Disney after the company embraced the LGBTQ movement; nearly 7 in 10 Americans no longer want to do “business” with Disney and will instead seek out “family-friendly alternatives.”
The poll found that a whopping 68.2% of voters are now “less likely to do business with Disney.” Of that number, 57.2% said they are “much less likely” to buy from Disney.