DeSantis denies report of ‘U-Turn’ on Disney’s Reedy Creek

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis denied a report Friday that the state was considering reversing its decision to dissolve Disney’s special governing district near Orlando. In a statement, a spokesperson for DeSantis said the governor “does not make U-turns.” “The governor was right to champion removing the extraordinary benefit given to […]

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis denied a report Friday that the state was considering reversing its decision to dissolve Disney’s special governing district near Orlando.

In a statement, a spokesperson for DeSantis said the governor “does not make U-turns.”

“The governor was right to champion removing the extraordinary benefit given to one company through the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” the governor’s office said. “We will have an even playing field for businesses in Florida, and the state certainly owes no special favors to one company. Disney’s debts will not fall on the taxpayers of Florida. A plan is in the works and will be released soon.”

Earlier Friday, the Financial Times reported Florida lawmakers considered keeping in place the special governing district that encompasses Disney World as Disney CEO Bob Iger returned to lead the company.

In April, Tallahassee legislators voted to dissolve Disney’s 55-year-old special tax district after Disney and former CEO Bob Chapek objected to DeSantis’ move to prohibit teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade.

But according to the FT report, state lawmakers are now working on a compromise that would allow Disney to keep the special district in place, with a few modifications.

Iger’s return as Disney CEO last month would help pave the way for a resolution, the FT reported.

“It’s easier to shift policy when you don’t have to defend the old policy,” Florida State Rep. Randy Fine, who drafted the bill to dissolve the district, told the FT. “Chapek screwed up, but Bob Iger doesn’t have to own that screw-up.” 

Fine could not immediately be reached for comment.

The 25,000-acre Reedy Creek property is a de facto city-within-a-city run by Disney. It allows the company to maintain its own infrastructure, roads, fire department, and water district so that Disney World is not reliant on state and local municipal services. It can also build or make changes to its physical properties without having to be responsive to a local planning board. And it can issue bonds to raise money for improvements.

Disney still pays property taxes and other levies to the jurisdictions in which it sits, including Orange and Osceola counties.

The FT report says Iger told Disney employees Monday that he was “sorry to see us get dragged into [the] battle” over Reedy Creek and needed time to “get up to speed” on the issue.

“What I can say [is] the state of Florida has been important to us for a long time and we have been very important to the state of Florida,” Iger added. “That is something I’m extremely mindful of and will articulate if I get the chance.” 

A representative for Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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