Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the STATE will take over Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District instead of saddling counties with $1B bond debt

  • Florida governor Ron DeSantis said that the state of Florida will likely take over Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District during comments on Monday
  • The governor insisted that local taxpayers will not be forced to take over the special district's nearly $1billion in debt
  • The comments come after DeSantis stripped Disney of special autonomy is has had since 1967 in April
  • After DeSantis signed the bill dissolving Reedy Creek, Disney pointed out that the district's $1billion in debt would have to be passed to local governments¬†

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Florida governor Ron DeSantis says that the state will likely take over Disney World's Reedy Creek Improvement District rather than local governments absorbing the special district.

DeSantis insisted on Monday that taxpayers in central Florida near Reedy Creek will not be forced to absorb the nearly $1billion bond debt that the district currently carries once its dissolution is completed in 2023.

The governor said that he is working on the proposal for the state to take over Reedy Creek and that he expects it to be considered after the November elections.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said on Monday that the state of Florida would assume control of Disney's Reedy Creek instead of saddling local counties with the district's $1billion debts

DeSantis stripped the special district that comprises Disney World and its surrounding properties of of its status in April. The district is due to dissolve on June 1, 2023

'The path forward is, Disney will not control its own government in the state of Florida,' DeSantis said at an event in Sanford, Florida, 'Disney will have to follow the same laws that every other company has to follow in the state of Florida. They will pay their share of taxes, and they will be responsible for paying the debts.'

Reedy Creek comprises Disney World and its surrounding properties. Disney and the Florida government founded it as an independent jurisdiction 55-years ago, allowing Disney to operate as a county government does. It is run by a board selected by Disney and other companies on the land. 

DeSantis stripped Disney of its self-governing status at the end of April as the governor and the media conglomerate clashed over the so-called 'Don't Say Gay' bill, which bans teaching on sexuality and gender to children from kindergarten through third grade. Reedy Creek is set to be dissolved on June 1, 2023.

But Disney quickly hit back at DeSantis after he moved to dissolve Reedy Creek, saying that there is a clause in its original contract that stipulates state or local governments will be responsible for its $1 billion bond debt when it is dissolved.

Reedy Creek was established in 1967 after negotiations between Disney and the Florida government. It established Disney as a special jurisdiction, allowing it to govern itself similarly to a state county

Disney issued those bonds - seen as an extremely safe financial investment - to fund the expansion of Walt Disney World Resort. Some have predicted that the tax burden those bond debts would impose on locals will prevent DeSantis from seeing through his bid to dissolve Reedy Creek.

'The devil is in the details and we don't yet today have the details,' said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings in April, whose county is partially home to Disney World.

He added it would be 'catastrophic for our budget' if the county had to assume the costs for public safety at the theme park resort.

DeSantis insisted on Monday that taxpayers would not be forced to bear the burden, and even said he wanted the state to take charge of the district lest local officials use the absorption of Reedy Creek as an excuse to raise taxes. 

Disney has pushed back against DeSantis' move to strip Reedy Creek of its status, arguing that if it is dissolved the district's $1billlion in debts would be given to local taxpayers

'I'd much rather have the state leading that effort than potentially having local government [in charge],' DeSantis said, 'I'm worried that they would use that as a pretext to raise taxes on people when that's what they would want to do anyways and then try to blame Reedy Creek. So we're not going to give them that opportunity.'

DeSantis' toxic war with the Disney started when the company blasted a new law - the so-called 'Don't Say Gay' bill - barring instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in pre-school through to third grade.

The company said in March it would suspend political donations in the state and added it would in turn support to organizations working to oppose what is officially called the Parental Rights in Education bill.

But DeSantis and his fellow Republicans lashed out at the Orlando resort - defending the law - before moving to strip it of its special privileges.

At the bill signing ceremony in South Florida in April, DeSantis said Disney lied about the content of the education law and that he viewed the company's vow to fight the law as unacceptable.

Governor Ron DeSantis at the signing the 'Individual Freedom' bill - also dubbed the 'Stop Woke' bill. DeSantis said during the signing that he was 'not comfortable with Disney's special treatment.'

He said: '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.'   

The republican-led House gave final passage to a bill that would end the Reedy Creek Improvement District, meaning the firm will no longer be able operate as a self-contained government.

But lawmakers say that the bill - which only received three days of consideration - was rushed through and adequate economic and legal studies were not made.  

DeSantis (left) said that he planned for the state to take over Reedy Creek during while speaking at Seminole State College, in Sanford, Florida, on Monday

When it comes to leaving local taxpayers to foot the bill for Disney's bond tax, legal experts say it would be illegal to impose such a burden on residents of both counties, meaning there is no way forward for DeSantis's proposals, Law & Crime reported.

Experts also point to the fact that the law that created Reedy Creek in 1967 promised not to 'limit or alter the rights' the special district's right to levy and collect taxes.

 'The state of Florida made a contractual promise and the whole point of making that promise was to make people buy these bonds and so the state of Florida is basically saying, 'Never mind. We know we promised you this, but no more by dissolving Reedy Creek,' Florida attorney Jacob Schumer told Orlando News 6.

Reedy Creek has said that it 'expects to explore its options while continuing its present operations.' 

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DeSantis says Florida will take over Reedy Creek instead of saddling counties with $1B bond debt

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