Florida Governor DeSantis may repeal Disney’s special tax status. But tax authorities and lawmakers say the move could leave local taxpayers covering more than $1 billion in bond debt.
Florida lawmakers have voted on a bill to remove Disney’s special tax status.
But taxpayers may have to cover the debt if the special status is revoked, CNBC reported.
The bill is the latest development in Disney’s fight with lawmakers over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Florida Republicans passed a bill on Thursday which could repeal the company’s Special Improvement District, effective June 2023. The bill comes after the company spoke out against the recent Parental Rights in Education Bill. state, described by activists and critics as “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 Representative 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.”
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.
Representatives for Walt Disney World, Farmer 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.
Last month, the CEO of Disney Bob Chapeck came under fire – both internally by employees and externally via events at company theme parks – following the company’s initially lukewarm denunciation 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 generally ban discussions of sexuality and gender identity in K-3 classrooms and allow parents to sue schools if staff members facilitate such discussions. conversations. It is due 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. business.
In response, DeSantis criticized the companysaying he “crossed the line” with their 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 “”awake”” 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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