Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida is set to gain significant control over Disney’s tax district in Orlando, following the release of new legislation by state Republicans.
The new bill filed on Monday would give the governor power to appoint the five-member board of supervisors that runs what is now known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special government entity that’s granted sweeping benefits to Disney for half a century.
According to the governor’s office, the previous tax district allowed Disney to govern themselves, turning the theme park into “an unaccountable Corporate Kingdom.” The legislation aims to dissolve this “Corporate Kingdom” and establish a state-controlled district that is accountable to the public.
The bill permanently eliminates Disney’s self-governing status and imposes a state-controlled, term-limited board on the company and its property. The state will also have the power to impose taxes on Disney for potential road projects outside of the district’s boundaries.
Additionally, the legislation ensures that Disney will pay the USD 700 million in unsecured debt, rather than Florida taxpayers.
The bill provides no control of the district to the local government in Orange County and imposes Florida law to prevent Disney from receiving preferential treatment. The legislation also prevents Disney from acquiring more land through eminent domain and creates an avenue to compel the company to contribute to local infrastructure.
The governor’s office has released a list of powers that Disney previously held when they governed themselves, including full self-governing status with a Disney-selected board, the ability to build airports and nuclear facilities, the ability to acquire property beyond the district’s territory, unilateral boundary changes, no-bid procurements of construction contracts, and exemptions from regulatory reviews and approvals.
Jeff Vahle, President of Walt Disney World Resort, has issued a statement saying that the company is closely monitoring the progression of the draft legislation. “Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world, and regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year.”
The new legislation marks a major shift in the way Disney’s tax district in Orlando will be governed and managed. The bill delivers on Governor DeSantis’ promise to take control of the district and establishes a new era of accountability and transparency.
The impact of the bill on Disney and its operations in Orlando remains to be seen, but it is certain that the company will be closely monitoring the situation.