Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says the state will likely take control of Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District

May 16, 2022 in "The Walt Disney Company"

Posted: Monday May 16, 2022 1:04pm ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

At an event in Sanford this morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that the state would likely take control of Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Since the Governor signed the bill dissolving Reedy Creek Improvement District last month, many questions have been raised about how dissolving the district will be achieved in practice and if any debt will be passed onto the local Orange and Osceola counties.

He said today, "The path forward is, Disney will not control its own government in the state of 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."

Despite his comments this morning, DeSantis has still not laid out a clear plan to dissolve Reedy Creek. He said today that his plan would be presented to the legislature after the November 2022 elections, which leaves very little time before the June 1 2023 termination date.

The creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District in 1967 allowed Disney the luxury of establishing its own independent government that handles many aspects of the Walt Disney World property, including emergency services, infrastructure, and construction permitting.

These latest developments follow escalating tensions between DeSantis and Disney CEO Bob Chapek regarding Disney's opposition to Florida's HB 1557, also known as the 'Don't Say Gay' bill.

Disney's Bob Chapek has yet to make any public comments on the situation regarding Reedy Creek Improvement District.

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GoofGoof4 days ago

I think it is what it is for the most part and won’t have much of an impact on business. Companies like Chic-FIL-A have taken controversial political positions and it hasn’t damaged their ability to be wildly successful as a business. The majority of people if asked directly will have an opinion on a political issue, but only a small minority are passionate enough about it to allow that opinion to impact their everyday life. Will Disney lose customers over this? Maybe some. Will that loss of business be significant enough to impact the bottom line and/or stock price? Probably not. Would taking no action or even less of a firm position have resulted in a loss of business from another group? Same 2 answers as above. This is a political battle Disney is in, but I’m not so sure they had any way to fully avoid it. As a political strategy this stuff is pretty successful, especially to pump up the base and most importantly gain donations. Back more on topic, RCID has absolutely nothing to do with any of that. Just collateral damage. There’s nothing inherently controversial or evil about the special district. If anything it’s a large part of arguably one of the biggest success stories for a state economy in the last hundred years. Think about where FL would be if WDW was never built. That’s the sad part of this whole thing. Fortunately for most of us as fans of the park it ain’t goin nowhere. Disney doesn’t really need RCID like it did 50+ years ago and would survive fine without it.

ParentsOf44 days ago

Quoting that part of the article: Chapek will need all the support he can get. With the midterm elections looming in November, issues including race, abortion, guns and LGBTQ rights will dominate the debate on the left and right. This means the image of “woke” Disney is likely to remain in the political spotlight, says Anthony Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University. “The issues around Disney are going to get litigated ad nauseam” during the campaign, says Kreis, who writes about civil rights and politics. “There’s no winning strategy here for them.” My interpretation is that Professor Kreis is referring to the political war that Disney has been drawn into, even though he uses the word "litigation". With the country so deeply divided, political battles might be won and lost, but there's no end in sight for the political war that Disney has gotten itself into.

Vacationeer4 days ago

Who is the ‘them’ to which there’s no winning strategy?

GoofGoof4 days ago

I can’t see the actual story but I know we talked about the big sell off on RCID bonds that resulted in the price dropping well below par. Are they saying the bond prices are going back up? Could be a sign that the financial community views that there will be a positive outcome for the district.

GoofGoof4 days ago

I think this about sums up part of the situation. There were certainly missteps by Disney. That doesn’t excuse the actions of the Government one bit.

GoofGoof4 days ago

In a way the term limits make the lobbyists even more powerful since the lobbyists themselves have no term limits. They become the constant in the political system. A continuous influx of new blood needing help with the lay of the land and also needing money for re-election without name recognition. Not saying I’m opposed to term limits at all.

Brian4 days ago


ParentsOf44 days ago

Some highlights from the Financial Times article: Early on, Disney had an opportunity to sign a letter protesting the Parental Rights in Education Act. Several companies such as Apple and Amazon had signed this letter. Now fired Disney head of corporate affairs Geoff Morrell advised Disney CEO Bob Chapek not to sign. Instead, Morrell recommended working through Disney's "formidable team of 38 lobbyists in Florida" to "soften" the bill. In the past, Disney had been used to getting its way with Florida legislators but this time they were "surprise to see that Disney’s efforts to water down the bill were not working." Former CEO Bob Iger made matters worse by retweeting President Biden, who called the bill "hateful". As a result of Disney's lack of public action, the considerable goodwill Disney had with its LGBTQ+ employees was damaged. Chapek went on a “listening tour” to various company locations to try to repair that damage. DeSantis used Disney's belated public statements to attack the "woke" Disney. DeSantis said, Disney is “going to criticize the fact that we don’t want transgenderism in kindergarten and first grade classrooms . . . that’s the hill they’re going to die on?” The $100K Disney donated to DeSantis is chump-change compared to the $50M he has collected elsewhere. In other words, Disney has no bargaining leverage with DeSantis at the moment. "Chapek has been in course-correction mode ever since." Chapek fired Disney's head of tv Peter Rice to strengthen Chapek's position within Disney. (Rice is popular and was viewed as a possible replacement to Chapek.) The Board strengthened Chapek's position further by backing Chapek in this firing. GSU Professor Anthony Kreis, who specializes in civil rights and politics, is quoted as saying, “The issues around Disney are going to get litigated ad nauseam" during the campaign, ... "There’s no winning strategy here for them.” A former Disney executive is quoted as saying, “In a short period of time they managed to p*** off both the left and the right.”

drizgirl5 days ago

Care to summarize since it’s behind a paywall?

ParentsOf45 days ago

This makes for an interesting read from the Financial Times: How Disney Lost Florida

LAKid535 days ago

Except Florida does have term limits, so some are no longer in the Florida Legislature.

GoofGoof6 days ago

Exactly this ☝️

disneyglimpses7 days ago

I highly doubt formal negotiations are taking place just yet. But Disney has something like 40 lobbyists in Florida who have known all of the prominent Florida politicians for years. There is no doubt they are bickering back and forth trying to figure out what a deal may look like when formal negotiations do begin.

GoofGoof7 days ago

There are over 1,800 special tax districts in the state of FL. It’s not just Disney getting a “special advantage”. If you want to compare Universal to Disney, how many miles of roads does Universal have on their property? How many acres of preserved wetlands? Are the 2 the same just because they both operate theme parks? A RCID setup wouldn‘t be much of an advantage to Universal. When Universal decided they needed a new road to connect to their new park they got Orange County to foot half the bill for it. When Disney decided they wanted a new overpass near MK they got RCID to pay for it (no money from the county) and through tax payments the vast majority of the cost was passed through to Disney. How is that saving them money? Keep in mind Disney pays the exact same tax rate on their properties to Orange or Osceola County as Universal pays to Orange County but Disney receives far less services from the counties. The taxes paid to RCID are in addition to the county taxes so if anything Universal is the one saving money by not having a RCID type setup. Why does Disney want to keep RCID? Because they maintain control over the quality of the services provided. It’s not to cut corners on zoning, permitting or planning. They don’t need to wait for the county to fix a pothole or repave a section of road. They control stuff like the level of EMT services provided to guests and the cost charged the customer (nothing if you need an ambulance ride to the hospital from WDW). The other benefit is they can do a project like the parking garages at Disney Springs and finance it with municipal bonds that don’t show up on the books of TWDC. That was a much bigger benefit when Disney was a much smaller company and carried only a small amount of debt on their books. Ever since the Fox acquisition the billion of debt carried by RCID is pretty immaterial overall. The politicians would like you to believe that Disney has an “unfair” benefit that allows them to pay less taxes at the expense of FL taxpayers, but none of that is close to supported by facts. If anything the opposite is true and eliminating RCID would actually be a tax savings for Disney.