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Gov. Ron DeSantis and fellow Republicans stripped Disney World of its special tax and self-governing privileges amid the “Don’t Say Gay” battle. The retaliatory move holds consequences for the “happiest place on Earth,” and long-term problems for other businesses and residents in the Reedy Creek Improvement District which was under Disney’s management.
More importantly, the governor’s extraordinary stand against Disney World reveals a deviation from the traditional relationship Republicans with corporate entities. The GOP “who for a long time have had a close and warm relationship with U.S. corporations have started to be more selective about those relationships,” said former Florida Congressman and Republican Carlos Curbelo.
The party’s lawmakers are no longer hesitant to confront popular brands. Confronting Mickey Mouse was once unimaginable. “Now there’s actually significant political incentive to do so,” Curbelo added, according to The New York Times.
In his need for control, DeSantis seemingly did not consider the burden he placed on Orange and Osceola County residents.
The Walt Disney Company’s bond debt of around $2 billion could be transferred to local taxpayers, according to tax records and Florida lawmakers, CNBC reported. When Reedy Creek was established in 1967, it gave the Walt Disney Company complete regulatory control over Disney World. The corporate-controlled government services included overseeing land use and environmental protections within the District.
Disney’s agreement with Florida meant the corporation provided essential public services such as fire protection, emergency medical services, potable water production, treatment, storage, pumping & distribution, reclaimed water distribution, chilled and hot water systems, wastewater services, drainage and flood control, electric power generation & distribution, and solid waste and recyclables collection & disposal, according to the Reedy Creek Development District’s website. They were also tasked with regulating the EPCOT Building Code, and operating and maintaining all public roadways & bridges.
The funding to cover these responsibilities came from Disney World. Essentially, the corporation taxed itself.
Scott Randolph, Orange County’s tax collector said Reedy Creek collects approximately $105 million yearly in revenue. That money would disappear, which leaves the county and local taxpayers will assume all or part of the added costs.
It paid more than $280 million in property taxes to the counties between 2015 and 2020.
Reedy Creek covers 39 square miles or 25,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties and is home to Disney World’s four theme parks, two water parks, and a sports complex. The district also includes Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, two small cities that as of 2020 housed 53 residents who were either representatives or employees of Disney World.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Reuters: Florida Senate passes bill that would end Disney self-governing status; by Maria Caspani
NBC News: Reedy Creek repeal could mean a huge tax increase for Orange County; by Michelle Meredith
Fox 35 Orlando: How will dissolvement of Disney’s self-governing power impact Florida taxpayers? Experts weigh-in
CNBC: Florida taxpayers could face a $1 billion Disney debt bomb if its special district status is revoked; by Robert Frank
Featured and Top Image by Anna Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Christine Urias’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License