DeSantis says Florida will ‘simply assume control’ of Disney, relieve its debt: How is that punishment?

The only thing dissolving quicker than the Walt Disney Company’s special privileges in Florida appears to be any doubt that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will be credited with another major victory in the ongoing culture war.

As bureaucracies riddled with red tape have grown increasingly complex to navigate and maddening to fully comprehend, the challenge of fighting to untangle those regulatory Gordian Knots has often been viewed as improbable to accomplish and therefore not worth the effort. While detractors balk in the face of complex challenges like doing away with the Reedy Creek Improvement District, DeSantis continues to cut clear through the confusion to the heart of every issue and assured the state will “simply assume control.”

Setting aside concerns that the governor may or may not have been making a retaliatory move against Disney for its response to the Florida Parental Rights in Education law, a primary concern with undoing the self-governing powers within Reedy Creek has been the potential assumption of a new tax burden. While speaking at Seminole State College Monday to announce $125 million worth of funding toward Florida nursing programs, DeSantis contended there was nothing to get concerned about.

“The same people who criticize me saying ‘you’re punishing Disney’ are also saying we’re gonna relieve Disney of $766 million in debt. How would that be a punishment?” he asked before explaining the debts still owed would not go to the surrounding local governments or to the state government, but instead would get worked out with the residents in the district.

“With Reedy Creek, the path forward is Disney will not control its own government in the state of Florida. Disney will have to follow the same laws that every other company has to follow in the state of Florida. They will pay their fair share of taxes and they will be responsible for paying the debts,” he explained.

“At the end of the day,” the governor continued, “all we’re doing is putting them on a level playing field with all the other companies in Florida, making sure there’s no special privileges, no special deals, and that debt will be honored.”

A suit had been filed against DeSantis for a potential new tax burden, but the judge dismissed the case in part because the law dissolving the privileges does not go into effect until June 2023. With concerns about potential damages from taxes, the governor explained there was no justification to increase taxes in the district.

“Even though there are ways you could potentially have local communities absorb jurisdiction over Disney – after seeing them threatening to raise taxes on their citizens, we are not going to be in a situation where we’re just going to be giving them locally control,” he explained. “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 reiterated that this was not done haphazardly and that they had set the law to go into effect next year to provide plenty of time for new proposals to sort through all the necessary specifics and that Disney’s wasn’t the only special district being dissolved.

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