Critics warn Florida governor’s dissolution of Disney status will cost taxpayers

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed into law a bill revoking the Walt Disney Company's special district status in the state that has been in place for more than five decades.

HIALEAH GARDENS, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Friday into law that stripped Walt Disney World of its special district designation, a private government that the resort controls on its property in the state.

His fight with the entertainment giant comes from its opposition to Florida’s new law that critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”

The law would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the 55-year-old Disney government is known, as well as a handful of other similar districts by June 2023. The measure does allow for the districts to be reestablished, leaving an avenue to renegotiate the future of the deal that allows the company to provide services such as zoning, fire protection, utilities and infrastructure.

“You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re gonna marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state,” DeSantis said Friday before signing the bill into law at a ceremony in Hialeah Gardens. “We view that as a provocation, and we’re going to fight back against that.”

DeSantis said Friday that the company would end up paying more taxes than it currently does and that the law isn’t expected to cause tax increases for residents around Disney.

However, critics have warned that the law could result in Central Florida homeowners getting hit with big tax bills once Disney stops paying for services.

“We’re going to take care of that. Don’t worry. We have everything thought out. Don’t let anybody tell you that somehow Disney is going to get a tax cut out of this, they’re going to pay more taxes as a result of it.”

The dispute began with Disney’s criticism of a new law barring instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade as well as instruction that is not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” DeSantis and his fellow Republicans have defended the law as reasonable, saying that parents, not teachers, should be discussing such topics with children.

The governor took a swipe at Disney saying that it stays mum over China and its human rights abuses, but fights him and the legislature over the Parents Rights and Education Bill, which is also now law.

“They demagogued the bill, they lied about it, whatever, came out against it,” DeSantis said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.