Disney Tells Ron DeSantis to Cough Up $1 Billion or STFU
Last week, like the petty tyrant he is, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill dissolving Walt Disney World’s special district status, as retribution for the company’s decision to speak out against his bigoted “Don’t Say Gay” law. Set to go into effect next June, the move abolishes Disney’s self-governing jurisdiction, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and no longer allows it to effectively run its own city in and around the theme park. That means the counties of Orange and Osceola would be required to pay for services like firefighting, which Disney currently covers, and would be on the hook for Reedy Creek’s roughly $1 billion in outstanding bond debt. In other words, DeSantis’s act of revenge would not only punish a private company for condemning his anti-LGBTQ+ law, it would likely punish Florida residents too, who could see their taxes going up. Which is a pretty wild thing for a governor to do, particularly one from a party that talks a big game about “cutting taxes” and “free speech.” But all of this might be moot anyway, because Disney apparently knows Florida’s laws better than DeSantis and has said that actually, the Trump wannabe can’t do jack unless he pays off Reedy Creek’s debts first, and until then, it’ll be operating business as usual.
In a statement to its bondholders, reported by CNN, the Reedy Creek Improvement District pointed out that the 1967 state law establishing Disney’s special district states that Florida “will not in any way impair the rights or remedies of the holders…until all such bonds together with interest thereon, and all costs and expenses in connection with any act or proceeding by or on behalf of such holders, are fully met and discharged.” In other words, DeSantis’s attempt to dissolve the district is illegal unless he coughs up $1 billion first and because of that, Reedy Creek told bondholders, it’s not going anywhere.
“In light of the State of Florida’s pledge to the District’s bondholders, Reedy Creek expects to explore its options while continuing its present operations, including levying and collecting its ad valorem taxes and collecting its utility revenues, paying debt service on its ad valorem tax bonds and utility revenue bonds, complying with its bond covenants and operating and maintaining its properties,” the district wrote in the statement.
Last week, amidst DeSantis’s petty act of retribution, Orange County tax collector Scott Randolph told The Washington Post, “Orange County is going to be stuck with $164 million or more per year in expenses with no revenue. So they’re going to have to raise property taxes. This is a huge tax increase on the citizens of Orange County that they’ll have to pay every single year.” Florida state representative Carlos Smith, also noted that, if dissolved, the hundreds of people who work for Reedy Creek—who are presumably Florida residents—will lose their jobs. Which is apparently fine with the governor, who reportedly has his sights set on the White House in 2024 and thinks operating like a dictator will appeal to the base, or at the very least, keep him in regular rotation on Fox News. “If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy,” DeSantis wrote in a fundraising email to supporters on Wednesday last week. “I will not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state.”
But apparently that “woke corporation” won’t be surrendering so easily!
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