Disney’s loss of self-taxation status could create over $1 billion in bond debt

Tax authorities and lawmakers say a law dissolving Disney’s self-government status could burden local taxpayers with more than $1 billion in bond debt, CNBC reported Thursday.

Florida Republicans passed a bill on Thursday that could repeal the company’s Special Improvement District, effective June 2023. The bill comes after the company spoke out against the recent proposed the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed by activists and critics the “Don’t Say ‘Gay’ Bill.”

In 1967, Florida state legislators created a special taxation and governance district known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, in which landowners—primarily Walt Disney World—would fund its own municipal services, such as electricity, water, roads, emergency services and fire protection.

Scott Randolph, the Orange County tax collector, told CNBC that the Reedy Creek District collects about $105 million a year in general revenue, in addition to the more than $280 million Disney pays in taxes. real estate, making it Central Florida’s largest taxpayer.

Legislation approved by lawmakers on Thursday aims to end Reedy Creek by June 2023. If it dissolves, responsibility for municipal services then falls to neighboring Orange and Osceola counties.

“If you dissolve Reedy Creek, that $105 million in revenue literally disappears, it’s not transferred,” Randolph said, forcing taxpayers to cover some, if not all, of the costs.

However, Florida State Rep. Randy Fine, who helped steer the bill through Reedy Creek’s end, told CNBC that local taxpayers would actually benefit from removing Disney from its special tax status, saying tax revenue generated by Disney would instead go to the local government. and would cover services.

“Those taxes will continue to be paid,” Fine said. “They will just be paid to Orange and Osceola County instead of this special improvement district. Taxpayers might end up saving money because you have duplicate services that are provided by this special improvement district that are already provided by these municipalities.”

American flag in the background of someone holding a phone that says The Walt Disney Company on the screen.

Throughout Walt Disney World, all American flags are missing a star or stripe.

Sopa Images/Getty Images


But besides the liability of city departments, tax experts and lawmakers have also warned that disbanding the district involves transferring its bond obligations — totaling between $1 billion and $1.7 billion — to other local governments, CNBC reported. .

State Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer told CNBC that if the debts were transferred to Orange and Osceola counties, the debt could add an additional $1,000 per taxpayer.

“If counties are left behind, the state may have to come to their aid,” Farmer said. “So it’s not even just a tax issue for those two counties. It affects all taxpayers in the state of Florida.”

Farmer proposed an amendment to Disney’s tax status bill to allow time to study bond debt, but it was defeated by a voice vote. Fine said the bond debts would be covered by the tax revenue Disney pays.

“We shouldn’t be rushing through something that can have such significant economic impacts,” Farmer said.

In a statement to Insider, Farmer said he thought the ‘ridiculous’ anti-Disney bill acted as a ‘smokescreen’ to pass. the state redistricting planwhich divided black voters and halved the number of black districts from four to two.

‘No one really expects this Reedy Creek breakup to happen, but the threat of sending black voters’ rights back 50 years is very, very real, it’s what we should all be talking about today’ today,” Farmer told Insider. .

Representatives for Walt Disney World and Fine did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

Stripping Disney of its self-government status is the latest development in the company’s fight with GOP state lawmakers over the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.

Bob Chapeck

Disney CEO Bob Chapek hints that Disney World may soon lift its mask mandate for guests.

Jeff Gritchen: MediaNews Group: Orange County Register via Getty Images


Last month, Disney CEO Bob Chapek came under fire — both internally by employees and externally via protests at the company’s theme parks — following the initially lukewarm whistleblower’s whistleblower. undertaking of the state’s controversial LGBTQ legislation, despite the significant role it plays in the state economy.

LGBTQ legislation, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 28, would, in general, ban discussions of sexuality and gender identity in K-3 classrooms and allow parents to sue schools. whether staff members facilitate these conversations. It is to come into force on July 1.

On March 28, the same day DeSantis signed the bill, Disney released its most critical statement so far against the legislation, saying it “should never have been passed and should never have been enacted”.

“Our goal as a company is to see this law repealed by the legislature or overturned by the courts, and we remain committed to supporting national and state organizations working to achieve this,” a spokesperson for the agency said. company.

In response, DeSantis criticized the company, saying it “crossed the line” with its statement and efforts to repeal it, which he called “fundamentally dishonest.”

On Thursday, Newsmax host Eric Bolling asked Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñes if the governor would reconsider repealing Disney’s special tax status if the company backed out of its “”woke” program.”

“Is there an opportunity for Disney to change its mind and say we’re not going to consider this whole ‘woke’ program. And would the governor then say, ‘All right, you can keep your status. but we’ll keep an eye on you now “?” Bolling asked, to which Nuñes replied, “Of course.”



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