Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took a fresh swipe at the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS), claiming his push to eliminate the company Disney's Reedy Creek special district should be seen as a “wake-up call” to a company that veered away from its original corporate mission.
What Happened: Speaking Thursday night in an Orlando town hall on Fox News' “The Ingraham Angle,” DeSantis argued the dismantling of Reedy Creek — which has been in existence since 1967 — meant Disney would no longer get favored treatment from the state.
"It just simply ends with them being treated the same as every other company in Florida," he said. "They're going to follow laws. They're not going to have their own government. They're going to pay their debts, pay their taxes."
DeSantis freely admitted his push to get Reedy Creek eliminated was based on the company’s opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that prohibits the teaching of sexual identity and orientation classes to school children in kindergarten through third grade.
"I am not comfortable having one company with their own government and special privileges, when that company has pledged itself to attacking the parents in my state," he said. "When that company has very high up people talking about injecting pansexualism into programing for young kids, it's wrong. Walt Disney would not want that.”
DeSantis also urged Disney to “get back to the mission — do what you did great. That's why people love the company, and you've lost your way. Maybe this will be the wake-up call that they need to get back on track.”
What Happens Next: DeSantis insisted the dissolution of Reedy Creek would not create a tax burden on Orange and Osceola counties, adding it was a “fiction” that Reedy Creek saved local county governments from onerous infrastructure and public safety costs.
“They are paying money to run their operations,” he stated. “They will continue paying money to run their operations, and that will be true if the state is in charge of a district, if it's dissolved to the locals, it doesn't matter. That is going to continue to happen.”
However, Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph told WESH 2 that DeSantis had his facts wrong.
“The moment that it dissolves, that money's gone — just gone,” he said. “And instead, what happens is all the debts and obligations of Reedy Creek get transferred over to Orange County government.”
That obligation, Randolph warned, totaled more than $160 million.
"Worst case scenario, Orange County's going to find themselves in a $163 million hole that they've got to fill that they may not even be able to fill with property taxes even if they raised it to the maximum level allowed," Randolph said.
Photo of Ron DeSantis by Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons