Dissolving Disney Government Creates ‘Dire’ Situation: Florida Lawmakers

Calling Governor Ron DeSantis’s plan to dissolve Disney’s self-governance district “harebrained,” a trio of Democratic Florida lawmakers spoke out against the move Monday, saying it could lead to higher taxes for the counties where Walt Disney World is located.

DeSantis signed a bill on April 22 dissolving the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a specially designated area around the Walt Disney World resort that essentially allows Disney to function as its own government. The governor went after Disney’s Reedy Creek district after the company came out against Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The dissolution is poised to take effect by June 2023.

The move has been widely criticized, with many, including the three Florida lawmakers, saying that the notion had not been fully thought out. State Senator Linda Stewart, a Democrat representing the state’s 13th District, warned that dissolving Reedy Creek would have a detrimental impact on residents of the nearby Orange and Osceola counties, according to WFTV 9 News.

“This has just not been thought out and the consequences are so dire, we don’t want to see that happen,” Stewart said during a Monday press conference, estimating the residents of the two counties where the Disney property is located could face a $1,000-$2,000 increase in property taxes. “We cannot not speak up to have this happen because it comes down to our pocketbook.”

Three Florida lawmakers on Monday warned of consequences for taxpayers as a result of Governor Ron DeSantis dissolving Disney’s special self-governance district. Above, a shot of a sign outside Walt Disney World in Florida.
Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Stewart was joined at the press conference by fellow Democrats State Senator Victor Torres and State Senator Randolph Bracy, who represent portions of Orange and Osceola counties that could potentially be impacted by the dissolution of Reedy Creek, which the lawmakers branded as “harebrained.”

“Disney is not the one being punished by this bill,” Torres said. “The thousands of workers are. The taxpayers of Orange and Osceola are going to be punished. All Floridians will be punished if this No. 1 economic industry, tourism, declines because of this bill.”

In response to the move by the Florida government, Disney has claimed that the state will need to cover the district’s over $1 billion in outstanding bond debt before it can be legally dissolved, per the terms of the legislation that created the district in 1967. DeSantis has dismissed these concerns, asserting that Disney will be paying the debts, not Florida taxpayers.

In response to DeSantis’s assertions, Bracy claimed that the move against Disney was an election-year political ploy.

“His only goal right now is to get past the election,” Bracy said, according to Florida Politics. “He may say, ‘yeah, we’ll deal with it,’ and then once he’s past the election, he may not.”

Torres also called on voters to respond at the polls to DeSantis’s ongoing feud with Disney.

“My feeling is on this that he’s opened up Pandora’s box,” Torres said. “Now he’s saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to cover it.’ The bottom line, folks, this is an election year… This is a Republican raising taxes on the community. Are you willing to stand for that?”

Newsweek reached out to DeSantis’s office for comment.