The state is taking on the world’s most magical place. On Thursday, the Florida House of Representatives gave final passage to a bill to dissolve Walt Disney World’s private government.
The decision comes after Governor Ron DeSantis’ feud with Disney over its opposition to a measure that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
North Fort Myers Representative Spencer Roach, who was a co-sponsor of the Parental Rights in Education bill, spoke with WINK News before the vote. “I just stepped out to do this interview. We will be voting on that bill up or down,” said Roach.
“I have to imagine that Disney, on some level, is got to be wondering what the heck has just happened to us?” said UCF Political Science Professor Aubrey Jewett.
Disney employees rose up in opposition to the new law, prompting Disney’s CEO to apologize for not fighting against its passage. Governer DeSantis responded by pushing for the end of all of Disney’s historic special treatment.
“So you have this sort of crony, crony capitalism, corporate welfare for Disney, that’s been going on for over half a century, and it’s wrong. It’s anti-free market, it’s anti-economic liberty,” said Roach. “If you believe that the government should be deciding which businesses prosper or which businesses should not, you may be more at home in Cuba or Venezuela.”
Florida is not Cuba or Venezuela, but governor DeSantis made it clear that he felt that Disney crossed the line.
“For Disney to come out and put a statement and say that the bill should have never passed. And that they are actively going to work to repeal it. I think one, was fundamentally dishonest but two, I think that crossed the line,” said DeSantis.
The bill that the Senate and the House have now given the stamp of approval eliminates the ‘Reedy Creek Improvement District’ that gave Disney over 27,000 acres of land near Orlando in the 1960s. The district also helped alleviate the tax pressure that the company felt from it.
Through the district, Disney pays for all of its own police, fire, and other infrastructure.
“I mean, it’s really what I would consider the largest tax evasion scam in the history of Florida,” said Roach.
Without the Reedy Creek District, the surrounding Orange and Osceola counties will have to foot the bill.
“This fight not only impacts central Florida, but it could impact the whole state,” said Jewett.
Jewett said that weight could fall on all of us. “If you get rid of Reedy Creek, then property taxes may have to go up for the surrounding counties to continue to provide those services. Because, you know, if you still have two or 300,000 tourists coming through Disney every day, we still need roads, we still need drainage, we still need fire and EMT service, we still need an electrical grid, we still need trash pickup.”