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DeSantis signs bill dissolving Disney World's special district

The move could have huge tax implications for Disney.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed a bill to dissolve Walt Disney World’s private government after the entertainment giant opposed a new state law critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay."

The law would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the 55-year-old Disney government is known, as well as a handful of other similar districts by June 2023. The measure does allow for the districts to be reestablished, leaving an avenue to renegotiate its future.

The move could have huge tax implications for Disney, whose series of theme parks have transformed Orlando into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and serves to further sour the relationship between the Republican-led government and a major political player in the state.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District's 2021 Annual Financial Report shows it has a long-term bonded debt of $977,215,801. Florida Statutes currently state, unless otherwise provided by law or ordinance, a government formed by a merger of existing special districts "shall assume all indebtedness."

The Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph says he thinks the debt will be sent over to Orange County and that, unfortunately, it'll force the county to raise taxes for residents. 

“The average homeowner could see a couple of hundred dollars more in property taxes. And, when you’re talking large businesses, you’re talking possibly tens of thousands of dollars in additional property taxes every year," explained Randolph.

The dispute with the company began with Disney’s criticism of a new law barring instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade as well as instruction that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”

In March, Disney said it would suspend political donations in the state and added that it would in turn support organizations working to oppose the new law.

"They demagogued the bill, they lied about it — whatever — came out against it. You know what my view is? I was very clear about saying 'you ain't influencing me, I'm standing strong right here.' So, it doesn't matter," DeSantis said

At the bill signing ceremony Friday, DeSantis said Disney lied about the content of the education law but that he viewed the company's vow to fight the law as unacceptable.

"You're a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you're gonna marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state. We view that as a provocation, and we're going to fight back against that," DeSantis said.

DeSantis added that regardless of the back-and-forth between the state and Disney, the bill was the right thing to do. He also said he believes Walt Disney would not "appreciate" what is currently happening with the Walt Disney Co.

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