Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced plans to introduce a bill that would replace Walt Disney World's special self-governing power with a state-run board. The notice was posted on the website of Osceola County, which is home to part of Disney World along with Orange County.
According to sources in the governor's office, the legislation will mandate that members of the board be appointed by the governor.
“The corporate kingdom has come to an end,” said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis' communications director. “Under the proposed legislation, Disney will no longer control its own government, will live under the same laws as everyone else, will be responsible for their outstanding debts, and will pay their fair share of taxes.”
The planned legislation will also ensure that the company pays around $700 million in unsecured debt accumulated by Disney's special jurisdiction, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, rather than Orange County taxpayers.
“Imposing a state-controlled board will also ensure that Orange County cannot use this issue as a pretext to raise taxes on Orange County residents,” said Fenske.
This move follows last year's decision by DeSantis to dissolve Walt Disney World's special governing power in the state, after the company publicly opposed a new parental rights law in the state.
At the bill signing ceremony, DeSantis stated that Disney lied about the contents of the “Parental Rights in Education” law and that he viewed the company's vow to fight it as unacceptable.
Adrian Lukis, DeSantis' former chief of staff, commented on the new plans, saying “Disney can no longer have its own government and own taxing authority, and Disney — not taxpayers — will have to be responsible for any financial consequences.”
He added that while this would be painful for Disney, he expects other businesses in the state to be proud of the Governor for making it clear that “no one gets special treatment in Florida.”
A spokesperson for DeSantis denied recent claims by the Financial Times that lawmakers were preparing to reverse course on the move to eliminate Disney World's special status.
“Governor DeSantis does not make 'U-turns',” said the spokesperson. “The governor was right to champion removing the extraordinary benefit given to one company through the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”