TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Reports surfaced last week that indicated that Florida is preparing a “U-turn” on stripping Disney of its special status in the state. But Governor Ron DeSantis doubled down on his stance that the Burbank, California-based company will not retain its right to operate a private government at the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) in Orlando.
NO SPECIAL TREATMENT
Reedy Creek was created in the 1960s for Walt Disney World. The governor approached lawmakers to dissolve the special district after Disney opposed the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill.
But in a tweet on Friday, DeSantis’ press secretary Bryan Griffin wrote that “Governor Ron DeSantis does not make ‘U-turns.’ The governor was right to champion removing the extraordinary benefit given to one company through the RCID. We will have an even playing field for businesses in Florida, and the state certainly owes no special favors to one company.”
The special district allows Disney to tax itself for essential town services like local roads, power, water, and sewer services. According to an article in Bloomberg, Disney believes the setup is necessary to maintain the high standards that visitors expect when visiting its theme parks.
A MISLEADING REPORT
On Friday, Financial Times published an article claiming that Florida’s legislature was considering “a compromise that would allow Disney to keep the arrangement largely in place with a few modifications.”
The article quoted Florida Rep. Randy Fine, who drafted the recent law that moved to dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek property. But Fine said Friday on Fox & Friends that the article was misleading. “I can tell you one thing: In Florida, we don’t make u-turns,” said Fine.
Fine announced in May that lawmakers might make some changes in how Disney runs things and may make some modifications. But the Republican lawmaker said, “we’re never again going to let a company like Disney have the right to take people’s private property, [or] issue government bonds on its own.”
“ENORMOUS FINANCIAL BURDEN”
Some lawmakers and local officials in adjacent communities warned that if Florida dismantles Disney’s private local government, the state will have to shift the tax burden to taxpayers. There is also concern over Disney’s $1 billion debt load that may transfer to the state.
But Griffin said that “Disney's debts will not fall on the taxpayers of Florida. A plan is in the works and will be released soon.”
During the recent organization session, Florida House Speaker Paul Renner proposed changes to some of the House committees – including creating a new committee to oversee special districts. The move comes after the decision to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District and five other special districts in April.
The Florida Legislature has more time to decide how the municipality surrounding the Walt Disney Resort area will look. The dissolution of Disney’s special district is not scheduled to take effect until June 2023.