Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Walt Disney Co. will have to pay its own debts as the entertainment corporation stated that the state would have to foot the bill for its bond taxes when its special status is revoked.
Last month, the Florida Legislature approved DeSantis-backed legislation that rescinded Disney’s 55-year special governing status that had allowed it to control a vast, 25,000-acre parcel of land near Orlando that houses Walt Disney World and other facilities.
After the measure was signed by the governor, the Burbank, California-based company criticized the move to strip the Reedy Creek Improvement District of special privileges. It claimed that there’s a clause in the decades-old original contract that says Florida would be responsible for its bond debt, which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars.
But in a town hall with Fox News, DeSantis, a Republican, denied Disney’s claim, saying to applause that “Disney will pay its debts. Disney will, for the first time, actually live under the same laws as everybody else in Florida. Imagine that.”
He said the dissolving of Reedy Creek won’t go into effect until June 2023, which gives Florida lawmakers time to follow up.
“The bonds will be paid by Disney,” DeSantis said during the town hall, which aired on April 28. “They will be paying taxes, probably more taxes. They will follow the laws that every other person has to do, and they will no longer have the ability to run their own government.”
Claims that Florida taxpayers will now have to pay for Reedy Creek services are “fiction,” he said, noting that Disney is “paying money to run their operations.”
“They will continue paying money to run their operations, and that’ll be true if the state is in charge of a district, if it’s dissolved to the local, it doesn’t matter—that is going to continue to happen,” DeSantis said.
Disney has faced unprecedented criticism for wading into Florida’s politics and broader social issues after it vowed to get a DeSantis-backed parental rights measure revoked after it was enacted several weeks ago in the state. The company suggested that the legislation, which prohibits teaching very young children about sexual orientation and gender identities, was an attack on the LGBT community. It also repeated the Democratic-backed term “don’t say gay” to describe the measure, despite its text not containing those words.
Parents have also expressed alarm after video footage surfaced showing Disney producers and executives saying there will be a renewed effort to make more characters gay or transgender. One top executive, Karen Burke, said she’s the mother of two “queer children” and that Disney has produced “incredible, groundbreaking LGBTQIA stories over the years.”
Representatives for Disney didn’t respond by press time to a request for comment.