Gov. Ron DeSantis Strikes Devastating Blow to Disney – He Just Seized Control

OPINION:  This article contains commentary which may reflect the author’s opinion

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has finally gotten Disney on the hook by seizing control of the self-governing district that Disney had possessed and informing the company that it has to pay $700 million in debt and pay taxes. It was announced on Monday that the governor had taken control of Reedy Creek’s board. The governor has a long, contentious history with the company.

“Florida is dissolving the Corporate Kingdom and beginning a new era of accountability and transparency,” the deputy press secretary for DeSantis told the Daily Mail.

According to The Daily Mail: “DeSantis will also rename the site, switching its name from Reedy Creek to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. A new bill was proposed by Florida politicians on Monday, which would give the governor full control over the district, and the ability to appoint the five-member board of supervisors that runs the special district. The nominees would then need to be confirmed by Florida state senators. The proposed legislation would keep in place Reedy Creek’s obligation to almost $1 billion of outstanding bonds.”

Essentially, Disney governs the district as if it were its own government, with a five-member board elected by residents of the district.

It is proposed that the new rules if adopted, prohibit anyone from serving on the board who has ever been associated with Disney.

“These actions ensure a state-controlled district accountable to the people instead of a corporate-controlled kingdom,” said Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary for the governor.

It would permanently remove the ability to govern itself if the proposed rules were approved.

Jeff Vahle, Walt Disney World president, stated in a press release that the company is monitoring the progress of the legislation.

“Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world, and regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year,” Vahle said.

“Established in 1967, the special taxing district gave Disney control of services such as fire protection and utilities for the land around its Florida parks and resorts. That special status came under scrutiny amid a public feud between Disney and Gov. Ron DeSantis after the company, under then-CEO Bob Chapek, opposed the state’s Parental Rights in Education measure, which critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” law,” According to Spectrum News 13.

Term limits would be imposed on board members and the governor would be responsible for selecting them.

Moreover, Disney would be responsible for $700 million in debt in order to prevent taxpayers from becoming liable.

“In May, while speaking at Seminole State College in Sanford, DeSantis reiterated his promise that Florida’s taxpayers will not take on Walt Disney World’s debt when and if the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) dissolves in 2023,” Conservative Brief reported.

The popular Republican governor suggested that some legislative measures may be put in place to prevent that from happening.

“I can tell you this, that debt will not end up going to any of these local governments. It’s not going to go to the state government, either. It’s going to absolutely be dealt with by (Disney and other businesses) that are currently in that district,” DeSantis declared.

“We’re going to have a proposal to kind of make sure that that’s clear,” he added.

“DeSantis wants the state to assume control of the Disney-dominated self-governing body, which has run the Orlando-area theme parks for over 50 years,” CB continued.

“More likely that the state will simply assume control and make sure that we’re able to impose the law and make sure we’re collecting the taxes,” DeSantis explained.

In the state, Democrats have criticized DeSantis’ decision to go after Disney, arguing that dissolving RCID would place more than $1 billion in bond debt on county taxpayers.

The plan outlined by DeSantis resolves this concern.

“First of all, it’d be a cash cow for them if they had Disney,” DeSantis argued in reference to the counties.

“But I’m worried that they would use that as a pretext to raise taxes on people when that’s what they would want to do anyway and then try to blame Reedy Creek, so we’re not going to give them that opportunity,” he explained.

CB added “On Thursday, the Republican governor called for a special session of the state legislature in order to finalize procedures ahead of Disney’s special tax status coming to an end in June. The GOP legislature voted to strip the company of its status last May after then-CEO Bob Chapek publicly opposed Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law barring schools from presenting LGBTQ curriculum to K-3 students.”

In a recent press conference, DeSantis stated, “We’re not going to have a corporation controlling its own government.

“So the state’s going to have a board to run it. So Disney will not have self-governing status anymore. We’re not going to bend the knee to woke executives in California,” he explained.


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