In a Monday press conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis heightened his attacks on the Walt Disney Co. as he announced plans to further his takeover of Reedy Creek Improvement District.
So, Disney fought back.
While the entertainment giant has yet to comment on the press conference, a release on the Walt Disney World news forum provides "numbers and facts to refute Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' rationale for his attempted hostile takeover."
Speaking at the Reedy Creek Improvement District headquarters, DeSantis announced plans to revoke the development agreement and to increase state oversight of the Disney Co.'s theme park rides.
He said his hand-picked board, meant to replace the former Reedy Creek leaders, will consider how undeveloped Disney land can be used. He laughed as he suggested a state prison.
DeSantis openly speculating about what the state could build next to Walt Disney World:— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) April 17, 2023
“Someone even said, maybe you need another state prison…” pic.twitter.com/dlZ2r2OAqZ
DeSantis talked about Disney failing to pay its fair share of taxes. He said that would change under his new district management.
In its release, Disney refuted this.
"Disney points out that in 2022, it paid $1.146 billion in state and local taxes, making the Walt Disney Company the largest single taxpayer in Central Florida," the release says.
The governor claimed that Disney appraises its own property.
Disney says, "All property in the district, including all Disney property is assessed annually by the Orange County tax assessor or the Osceola County tax assessor, as applicable."
DeSantis said that his new board would consider adding affordable housing within Reedy Creek.
"Disney is already heavily invested in an Affordable and Attainable Housing Initiative, announcing last year that it would build more than 1300 affordable housing units on 80 acres of land near Walt Disney World," the release says.
The release also says DeSantis' decision to nullify the development deal sounds "more like a political rally and an appeal to his base to support his presidential bid."
The power battle between Gov. DeSantis and Disney stems from the company last year opposing Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" education law that restricts instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Initially, DeSantis and Republican lawmakers moved to entirely dissolve Reedy Creek Improvement District, which the state created in the 1960s to give Disney control over land use, fire protection and sewer services.
More recently, lawmakers passed a bill that shifts control away from Disney, allowing DeSantis to appoint a hand-picked Board of Supervisors and rename the district the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (or would that be the “Central Florida Tourism [but only some tourism; well OK, only Disney-centric tourism] Oversight District”?).
The fight was reignited, however, after the former Reedy Creek board signed an agreement that turned over most of its power to Disney World, giving it control over its territory for the next 30 years.
The power move by Disney took place in a public meeting inside the administrative offices of Reedy Creek. The same day, Florida lawmakers in Tallahassee were to consider the bill that would replace the board with DeSantis' hand-picked panel, which was effectively rendered powerless.
Governor DeSantis Provides an Update on Florida’s Response to Disney https://t.co/RgldbtQEMs— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 17, 2023