Ron DeSantis Will Stick It To Disney If It Costs Florida Taxpayers A Billion Dollars. Which It Will.

In the neverending culture wars, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a shoot first, ask questions later kind of guy. Disney had the temerity to criticize his filthy "Don't Say Gay" bill putting a target on teachers' backs if they acknowledge that gay people exist, so now he's going to stick it to Disney. If Florida taxpayers get totally hosed in the process to the tune of $2 billion, he'll worry about that later.

And according to the Orlando Sentinel and the Miami Herald, that's exactly what's going to happen if DeSantis gets his way and cancels the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special tax area in parts of Orange and Osceola counties that encompasses Disney World and grants the company autonomy while making it responsible for traditional municipal duties, such as water, sewer, trash collection, and the fire department.

Of course, it's likely illegal for government to punish a company for protected speech — and Republicans have made no bones about the fact that they're doing just that. Here's a Republican member of the Florida House making it very clear that they're violating the First Amendment.

But aside from the free speech issues, the economic reality of this bill is quite different from the picture painted by national coverage, which implies that the harm will fall squarely on Disney by forcing it to start paying $200 million in property taxes. As Democratic Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani pointed out on Twitter, Disney already pays property taxes, in addition to footing the bill for municipal services. And if the special district goes away, that responsibility shifts to local governments, along with $2 billion in bond debt.

"The statute says Orange County would pick up assets AND liabilities," Eskamani wrote. "Reedy Creek is an independent taxing district, the $105M they get from their taxpayers disappears—it doesn’t transfer like a dependent district."

Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph, i.e., the guy who will have to figure out how to pay for trash pickup and to service the bond debt if this harebrained bill goes through, agrees.

Sticking Florida voters with a massive tax hike in 2023, the target date to dissolve the Reedy Creek district, is a weird move for the GOP. Ditto for getting crosswise with a company that generates $75 billion annually for Central Florida's economy and is responsible for 463,000 jobs and almost $6 billion in yearly tax revenue for the state. There's also the minor matter that the legislature may not have the power to do it.

As the Sentinel points out, even the Republican legislative staff who analyzed the bill found that dissolution is "subject to approval by a majority vote of the residents or landowners of the district." And according to the Herald, those residents consist of a handful of Disney employees living in mobile homes with just $75 per month in lot fees, and who function as rubber stamps for Disney bond referendums — so the odds of them approving this dissolution are about the same as Disney making those mouse-on-dog pornos Ted Cruz has been gagging for. Nonetheless, the bill passed out of the House State Affairs Committee yesterday on party lines, 14-7.

Ditto for the Disney carve-out DeSantis himself shoehorned into his stupid social media law that's supposed to fine companies that moderate content on their websites. We could tell you about it, but it's really too ridiculous, and anyway the bill was immediately blocked for being a gross violation of the First Amendment — so redraft away, fellas!

Rep. Eskamani notes that, in addition to being a loud salvo in the pointless culture war, the Disney bills function as a distraction from the real purpose of the special legislative session, which is to ram through DeSantis's blatantly illegal electoral maps which will get rid of four Black US representatives. She called the bill a "distraction to steer everyone's attention away from eliminating Black congressional districts including one in Central Florida."

The same goes for DeSantis's ridiculous threats to beat up Twitter for refusing Elon Musk's hostile takeover. And if that's the effect of this whole debate, the GOP ain't mad about it.

"Disney is a guest in Florida," tweeted Rep. Randy Fine, the bill's sponsor in the House, about the state's largest employer. "Today, we remind them."

Oh, hey, look! It's a real governor. Hey, Dems, how about we run more like this guy?

[Orlando Sentinel / Miami Herald]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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