In an aerial view, Walt Disney World’s iconic Cinderella Castle is seen on the grounds of the theme park this February. On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took control of Disney’s special tax district. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
In an aerial view, Walt Disney World’s iconic Cinderella Castle is seen on the grounds of the theme park this February. On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took control of Disney’s special tax district.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Monday to end a special tax district encompassing Walt Disney World, dealing another blow to the company’s ability to operate with autonomy.
“The corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis said during a news conference Monday near Orlando. “There’s a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.”
DeSantis says that the special district enabled the company to skirt tax rules and building codes.
Political critics of DeSantis say the bill looks like retaliation for a growing feud between the company and the governor, which hit a tipping point last year with Disney’s opposition to an education bill restricting gender orientation discussion in the classroom.
As part of Monday’s bill signing, DeSantis appointed a state board to oversee municipal services, such as fire protection and road maintenance, where Disney World operates. Among the members of the board is Bridget Ziegler, a conservative school board member and wife of the Florida Republican Party chairman, according to WMFE reporter Amy Green.
The creation of the self-governing zone, known as Reedy Creek Improvement District, was instrumental to Disney’s decision to build its theme park near Orlando in the 1960s. The land stretches nearly 40 square miles around Walt Disney World.
According to a local tax collector, Disney has taxed itself roughly $53 million each year to build the infrastructure necessary to support the park.
The newly appointed board will have the ability to raise revenue to pay off those infrastructure debts and fund services, a move that raised concerns that local taxpayers could be left liable for Disney’s debts.
Disney did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment, but the company has previously told media outlets that it wouldn’t fight the government takeover.