Following a 23–16 Wednesday vote, Florida’s Senate passed SB 4-C, a bill designed to dismantle any and all of the state’s special tax districts that were created before 1968. Though there are over 1,800 different special tax districts in the state, given the GOP’s ongoing fight with The Walt Disney Corporation, the new bill reads very much like retaliation against the megacorporation for recently denouncing Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
In a press conference earlier this week ahead of the Florida legislature’s special session, Governor Ron DeSantis urged his fellow Republicans to support a legislative move that would dissolve Florida’s special tax districts like the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the Disney-controlled governing jurisdiction that gives the company county government-like powers over Walt Disney World’s real estate.
“I am announcing today that we are expanding the call of what they are going to be considering this week,” DeSantis said of the Florida legislature. “Yes, they will be considering the congressional map, but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”
In addition to congressional reapportionment, this week’s special session will include termination of legacy special districts and removal of exemptions from the big tech accountability law. pic.twitter.com/67sF4E113I
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 19, 2022
First established in 1967, Reedy Creek empowered Disney to assume responsibility for a number of services and duties for its Florida landholdings that would typically fall to a local government, like providing utilities and emergency services and issuing bonds. Reedy Creek’s formation played an instrumental role in Disney being able to set up shop in Florida with minimal outside interference and go on to become the state’s largest private employer with almost 80,000 employees on its payroll there. Should the legislation pass in Florida’s House and be signed into law by DeSantis, Reedy Creek would cease to exist on June 1, 2023, and Disney would be stripped of its ability to begin new construction projects without the oversight of external planning commissions.
Per The Wall Street Journal, Reedy Creek also shields Disney from having to pay certain taxes to Florida, which would change should Florida’s House approve the bill. But the district’s dissolution would also require its estimated $1 billion in bond debt be taken on by taxpayers, a reality that the bill’s backers seem willing to live with if it means sticking it to Disney.
“This is a governor who is willing to buck your traditional elite establishment and corporate America,” Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls said. “And maybe that’s a difference in politics over the last 20 years, but I think that we’re starting to live in this really unique time.”