ORLANDO, Fla. - Breaking update: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that dissolves the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which allows Walt Disney World and others to essentially self-govern themselves.
We will have updates to this story.
A bill targeting Walt Disney World's self-governing power is headed to the desk of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to be signed – and it's not sitting well with some people who live near the resort.
The fear? That this move could end up costing all Orange and Osceola County residents more money.
The Walt Disney Company has around $2 billion in debt, according to Representative Jeff Brandes, and if the Disney-run Reedy Creek Improvement District is dissolved, that debt could be transferred onto local taxpayers. And if that isn’t enough, the local governments could also have to assume the costly duties of maintaining Disney’s infrastructure.
Due to tax cap limits on how much property tax local governments can collect from Disney, it could mean a shortfall when it comes to managing Disney’s roads, garbage, public safety and wastewater. The legislature reportedly never commissioned a study to find out how much this could affect taxpayers or the Central Florida economy.
Some officials say they do not believe local taxpayers would get stuck with the bill.
"Orange County could create its own dependent district around Reedy Creek and access them that same amount of money they need to pay their bills," said Dave Ramba, Executive Director of Florida Association of Special Districts.
While this move has largely been seen as a way to punish Disney for speaking out against the governor on the Parental Rights in Education Bill that critics have dubbed the "Don’t Say Gay" bill, political analysts say Disney has been quiet when it comes to dissolving Reedy Creek. One reason is that it could be because the company stands to benefit from getting a large debt canceled – even though they would be losing a lot of control in terms of finances.
The bill’s sponsor, Representative Randy Fine, says they will have a full year to decide how they want to move forward with dissolving Reedy Creek. He says they may choose to make changes to the current agreement, giving Disney less power and then re-establish Reedy Creek once again.