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FL Gov. DeSantis signs law stripping Disney of special tax status

Disney's Magic Kingdom park. (Dreamstime/TNS)
April 22, 2022

On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation that dissolves Walt Disney World’s self-governance, a privilege that Walt Disney Co. was granted with the passage of the Reedy Creek Improvement Act in May 1967. The move comes after Disney vowed to help repeal Florida’s new parental rights law.

After 55 years, Florida has officially ended Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, which exempted the company from many taxes, fees and regulations, allowing it to reportedly save tens of millions of dollars every year, NBC News reported.

The law does allow the district to be reestablished, leaving the door open for potential renegotiation in the future.

“Once upon a time Disney was a great partner with the state of Florida,” said Rep. Jackie Toledo, Republican from Tampa, according to CNN. “We’ve granted them privileges because of our shared history, shared goals and shared successes. Shamefully, Disney betrayed us.”

GOP state Rep. Randy Fine, who sponsored the bill, said Disney “kick[ed] the hornet’s nest” by condemning parents’ rights.

“You kick the hornet’s nest, things come up,” Fine said. “This bill does target one company. It targets Walt Disney Company. You want to know why? Because they’re the only company in the state that has ever been granted the right to govern themselves.”

Earlier this week, DeSantis called on state lawmakers to end Disney’s special tax status in Florida after the company spoke out against the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill, which protects children in 3rd grade and below from being indoctrinated with gender theory in the classroom.

“I’m just not comfortable having that type of agenda get special treatment in my state,” DeSantis said.

After DeSantis signed the bill into law on March 28, Disney released a statement pledging to help repeal the law that protects parents’ rights over their children’s education.

“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” Disney said in a statement, as reported by CNBC. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.”

“We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country,” the statement continued.

DeSantis fired back at the California-based corporation for attacking Florida parents.

“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 vowed, according to The Houston Chronicle.