DeSantis is about to defuse the $1.2 billion tax bomb it set off a year ago to punish Disney

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis lashed out at himself a month ago when he confronted the Walt Disney Company with a law meant to punish him for criticizing his “don’t say gay” law. is one signature away from defuse the $1.2 billion tax bomb that was launched a year ago.

A new bill passed by the Florida legislature on February 10 renames the tax district that governs Disney’s sprawling central Florida parcel and gives a Republican governor the power to appoint its board of directors, while allowing the district’s The financial structure remains largely untouched.

More importantly for local property owners, DeSantis’ likely 2024 presidential run means he will transfer the Reedy Creek Improvement District’s $1.2 billion cumulative bond debt to Orange and Osceola counties. , is to repeal the law passed hastily last year. 1. By his 2038, when Disney bonds are finally paid off, he has seen more than 700,000 homeowners’ and businesses’ property tax bills rise by thousands of dollars each. I guess.

“Disney’s cock-up was … potentially disastrous for Central Florida taxpayers, but not illegal. I had to claim the win,” Mack said. Stepanovich, chief of staff to former Republican Governor Bob Martinez;

Meanwhile, the new law covers only Reedy Creek and other tax districts created for the benefit of specific landowners, such as a village development near Ocala or one for the Daytona Beach NASCAR truck. and not. Also, by allowing a hefty tax on theme park infrastructure development, Disney can basically continue to do business as it has in the past. Both elements deny her DeSantis’ claims about the law.

“This shows once again that it wasn’t about governing Reedy Creek. It was about punishing the companies that spoke out,” said Nikki Democrat, who served on the Agriculture Commissioner before running for governor last year. Freed said.

DeSantis staff did not respond to HuffPost’s questions, including when the company plans to sign the new bill into law.

However, in public statements, both he and his staff have painted the bill as a political victory.

“We have a new sheriff in town,” he boasted at a Feb. 8 press conference.

Disney did not respond to HuffPost’s questions.

courting a mouse

The episode began within days of the Republican-dominated Florida legislature passing the Parents’ Rights in Education Act on March 8, 2022. Critics called it a “don’t say gay” bill, claiming it would prevent a same-sex marriage teacher from mentioning her spouse, for example.

Disney has remained silent about the bill, but then-CEO Bob Chapek sent a letter to all Disney employees on March 11, criticizing the bill and criticizing politics in Florida. He said he would stop donating. This reflects the party’s dominance within the state.

That public insurrection infuriated DeSantis, who reacted the following month during a special session convened for the purpose of passing a parliamentary map for the next election. introduced legislation to abolish all special tax districts created prior to constitutional approval and not subsequently reauthorized; The bill affects five unnamed districts in various counties, in addition to Reedy Creek, which was established in 1967 when the state was encouraging Disney to build a large new theme park just south of Orlando. gave the

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is poised to take control of the special tax district that covers Disney World south of Orlando.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is poised to take control of the special tax district that covers Disney World south of Orlando.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is poised to take control of the special tax district that covers Disney World south of Orlando.

The act gave Disney tax rights over 25,000 acres of land it purchased and allowed it to build roads, power plants, and water and sewage systems. This can be done using funds raised through property taxes within district boundaries. Disney was also given powers to build nuclear power plants and airports, but never used them. Reedy Creek’s board of directors is elected by landowners within the district, and each acre she owns is allowed one vote for her.

The bill abolishing Reedy Creek passed just two days later, and DeSantis signed it into law the next day, April 22, 2022.

However, another state law provides that if an independent district is dissolved, its outstanding bond obligations will be collected by the counties within the boundaries of the district. For Disney and Reedy Creek, it’s Orange and Osceola.

Punishing mice that “wake up”

It’s unclear if DeSantis and his aides understood the impact of retiring Reedy Creek on local property taxes in the heat of their altercation with Disney last spring. “I doubt he noticed,” Kevin Kate said.

Within days of the repeal bill becoming law, DeSantis had already pledged additional legislative action to settle the details. That suggests that, at least by that point, they understood that not taking further action would be politically disastrous.

That action took place at another special session earlier this month, when a new law dealing only with Reedy Creek would rename it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and revise the board to ensure that the governor is not a landowner within its boundaries. I chose that member.

The name is misleading. Sightseeing in Central Florida, including both other theme parks such as Universal Studios and Sea World, and the flashy Strip such as International Drive, is generally not covered. It covers only 24,969 acres within the Reedy Creek boundary, many of which were purchased to give the Disney Resort a significant buffer from the surrounding area and now serve as aquifer recharge zones.

While the new law will eliminate Disney’s ability to build nuclear power plants and airports, the actual tax breaks Disney enjoys for competing theme parks in the region will reduce the renamed district tax. It seems to be left untouched by the new laws that continue to grant. – exempt status. For example, if a Disney tax district builds a parking lot for Disney guests, it is not required to collect sales tax, but competitors do.

Disney properties continue to pay some of the highest property taxes in Florida. The company pays all county and school taxes levied on that land, and then pays additional “factories” to build and maintain roads and utilities on that land.

“Ironically, Disney wants and does pay higher taxes than they would if they didn’t have special tax districts. Hopefully,” said Stipanovic. “They certainly had a special deal, but it wasn’t in their financial interest, which was the central premise of DeSantis’ attack. It was a charade from the start.”