New Anti-disney Laws in Florida Could Cause Taxpayers to Shoulder $1 Billion in Debt

A “state pledge” enacted 55 years ago may prove extremely difficult for Florida Republicans to overturn Disney World’s private administration status, the Walt Disney Company stared last week when the GOP moved to penalize the company for opposing its controversial “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.

Disney told investors last week that it believes it can conduct business as usual using the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a 25,000-acre theme park complex.

In 1967, the special district was designed to entice Disney to build on the site, saving it millions of dollars in annual fees and taxes while bringing some 50 million tourists to the Orlando area each year.

“The State of Florida pledges … that it will not limit or alter the rights of the District until all such bonds … are fully met and discharged,” Disney wrote in its letter, saying it expected to “explore its options while continuing its present operations.”

Nevertheless, Florida Republicans voted last week to dissolve that special status in what critics see as retaliation after Disney announced it would attempt to overturn the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.

Legislators, however, cannot do that until the Reedy Creek district’s bond debt has been repaid – a figure that may be more than $1 billion, according to experts.

The state could incur hefty legal fees and theoretically be required to absorb the district’s debt if it decides to proceed with its dissolution.

Scott Randolph, a Democratic tax collector from Orange County, where a portion of that bond debt could be absorbed alongside Osceola County, has denounced the bill, stating that it could end up costing families of four an additional $2,200 to $2,800.

Disney would “under no circumstances” get out of paying its taxes or debts, according to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Disney pledged to fight the bill after DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill last month. The statement comes after one of the state’s largest employers was criticized for saying it would stay neutral as the bill went through the statehouse.

“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that,” the company said in a statement at the time. “We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”

However, the change in tone enraged DeSantis and other Republicans.

“I’m just not comfortable having that type of agenda get special treatment in my state,” the governor said. “I just can’t do it.”

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