Welcome, World Travelers! Gov. DeSantis Repeals Disney’s Special District
by James Coulter
On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that gave the state control over the special district formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the self-governing district of the Walt Disney World Resort.
“Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end. This is what accountability looks like,” Gov. DeSantis said upon signing the law, which was signed, ironically enough, at Reedy Creek Fire Station No. 4 on Disney World property.
I had previously discussed the Reedy Creek district and the situation surrounding it in a previous column last year. If you want to learn more about it in detail, read the whole piece here: https://dailyridge.com/2022/05/18/welcome-world-travelers-what-is-the-reedy-creek-improvement-district/
In summary, the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) was a special taxing district created in 1967 that granted Walt Disney World the same authority and responsibilities as a county government. Through it, the resort could fund and build its own roads and utilities and move forward more easily with new construction projects.
However, following Disney’s denouncement of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill (commonly referred to as the Don’t Say Gay bill) and its announcement to pause political donations to Florida lawmakers, Gov. DeSantis fired back at the company by threatening (and later, succeeding) to revoke its “special corporate privileges” including the Reedy Creek Improvement Act.
The new law renames the former Reedy Creek district as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The new district will now be controlled by the state with a new board with members appointed by Gov. DeSantis. As Axios explains:
“The new legislation will create a new state-controlled tax district that will oversee the 25,000 acres surrounding Walt Disney World.
The new district — renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District — will have a five-person board overseeing it, with members appointed by DeSantis and approved by the Florida Senate.
The legislation removed parts of the district’s power, including the ability “to build a nuclear power plant and an airport, but those powers had never been used,” according to Variety.”
Gov. DeSantis claims the new law will end “Disney’s special privileges” and bring forth “a new era of accountability and transparency.” However, many critics have argued the law was created in retaliation to the Disney Company speaking up against the Governor’s discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.
As State Rep. Anna Eskamani mentioned in a statement: “Disney still maintains the same tax breaks — but their First Amendment rights have been suppressed, and it sends a message to any private individual or company that if you don’t purport to what the governor wants, then you’ll be punished.”
Many other critics have argued the new law will also, as Axios reports, “make it harder for the company to operate its parks as efficiently.” Furthermore, the tax burden for local services would be shifted to the taxpayers of Orange and Osceola County. That tax burden amounts to at least $105 million in general revenue, $280 million in property taxes, and nearly $1 billion in bond debt, CNBC reported.
Many Republicans like DeSantis claim to believe in “limited government” that allows businesses to more easily grow and flourish in the “free market” with low taxes and limited government oversight. Ironically, DeSantis’ new law will force more government oversight over Walt Disney World and increase taxes for Florida taxpayers. So much for the “free market”!
But what do you think? Was Gov. DeSantis right to strip Disney World of its special district? Or will this move only hurt Florida economically by killing the goose that lays the golden egg? Leave your comments on Facebook.