Ron DeSantis says Florida will take over Disney’s autonomous district

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants the state — and not the counties — to assume control of the Disney-dominated self-governing body that has run the Orlando-area theme parks for more than 50 years.

The Republican governor, who has won praise from many conservatives for staring down the Mouse House over the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, said it would be fairer for other businesses if the state oversees the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

“More likely that the state will simply assume control and make sure that we’re able to impose the law and make sure we’re collecting the taxes,” DeSantis told CNN.

Last month, DeSantis signed into law a measure that dissolves RCID, which operates as an autonomous entity on land straddling Orange and Osceola counties that has the power to levy taxes, build infrastructure, grant licenses and institute its own zoning laws.

The state of Florida will assume control of Reedy Creek Improvement District, the Disney-dominated self-governing entity that runs the company’s theme parks in and around Orlando, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
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DeSantis said on Monday that local governments would not be responsible for administering the land on which the Disney theme parks sit.
DeSantis said on Monday that local governments would not be responsible for administering the land on which the Disney theme parks sit.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Officials from both counties had slammed DeSantis and the state legislature, saying that the dissolution of RCID would mean that county taxpayers would have to foot the bill for more than $1 billion in bond debt.

DeSantis’ plan alleviates that concern and ensures the residents in those counties do not face higher taxes.

“First of all, it’d be a cash cow for them if they had Disney,” said DeSantis, referring to the counties.

“But I’m worried that they would use that as a pretext to raise taxes on people when that’s what they would want to do anyways and then try to blame Reedy Creek, so we’re not going to give them that opportunity.”

Disney ran afoul of DeSantis and GOP lawmakers in Florida when it came out in opposition to a new "Don't Say Gay" law.
Disney ran afoul of DeSantis and GOP lawmakers in Florida when it came out in opposition to a new “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The governor said that a plan for the state taking control of RCID, whose board members have ties to Disney, would not be in place until after the November elections.

The new law dissolving the district doesn’t take effect until June 2023.

Disney ran afoul of the Republican Party in Florida after it bowed to employee pressure and came out against the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans teaching children about topics including gender identity and sexual orientation before fourth grade.

“The path forward is Disney will not control its own government in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

“Disney will have to follow the same laws that every other company has to follow in the state of Florida. They will pay their fair share in taxes.”

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