DeSantis continues to protest against Disney as he signs a bill that would dissolve Florida’s autonomous district of the massive theme park

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After weeks of sparring with Walt Disney Co. after criticizing one of his prize laws, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Friday signed a law dismantling a special tax district created 55 years ago, which enabled the company to build what has become the world’s most popular amusement park.

The spitting began almost a month ago when Disney CEO Bob Chapek issued a statement criticizing a parenting law banning discussions on gender issues in elementary school classes up to third grade and possibly through high school. Chapek said the company would work to repeal the law, which is considered by many to be potentially harmful to LGBTQ youth. It seemed to annoy DeSantis.

“Do you want to gather your company’s power to attack Florida’s parents?” That’s what DeSantis said Friday. “We see it as provocative.”

The dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District will not happen until June 2023, but officials in the surrounding communities are worried about how they will manage a debt obligation of more than $ 1 billion that would shift from Disney to local governments. They also say that the $ 163 million a year that Disney pays for public services within the particular district would be a “catastrophic burden” that could ultimately raise individual property taxes by $ 2,500 a year.

Disney has not commented on the legislation since DeSantis introduced it Tuesday during a special legislative session. The bill was quickly passed through the GOP-led House and Senate, going from a proclamation by DeSantis to a final vote of just over 48 hours.

The legislation came with only one and a half pages of analysis, leaving many to wonder what the actual impact will be. Disney World employs nearly 70,000 workers, covers 40 square kilometers and brings in more than $ 20 billion a year in tourism revenue.

The governor told local officials not to worry.

“We’re going to take care of all that. Don’t worry. We’ve got everything thought through,” DeSantis said. “Do not let anyone tell you that Disney will somehow get a tax deduction out of this. They are going to pay more tax.”

The Orange County tax collector said his office needs more than insurance.

“The great thing is that Disney initially, when Reedy Creek disappears, on paper is exempt from paying $ 163 million a year in property taxes,” said tax collector Scott Randolph of Orange County. “I wish my parents would have ‘punished’ me that way.”

DeSantis invited right-wing activist Chris Rufo to sign the bill. Rufo has been a prominent voice in the fight against critical race theory in schools. Along with the Disney bill, the governor signed a law banning teachers from giving lessons that make students feel “discomfort, guilt, anxiety, or any other psychological form of distress” because of their race. It also bans companies from diversity training that would have the same effect.

Rufo aimed at Disney’s diversity training program.

“This is a direct message to Disney CEO Bob Chapek. This program called Reimagine Tomorrow is not only morally wrong, it’s now illegal in the state of Florida,” Rufo said. “And so we’ll give you the weekend to make some adjustments. to abolish this program immediately, because on Monday, if this is still part of Disney’s human resources program, there will be consequences. “

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