DeSantis on Reedy Creek debt: “Disney is going to pay”

by | Feb 8, 2023

  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated on Wednesday that Disney will pay its debts in the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
  • The district currently holds $1 billion in debt and has an operating budget of $100 million annually.
  • Officials in counties surrounding Reedy Creek initially expressed concerns that the debt and annual expenditure of the district would flow to taxpayers in Orange and Osceola counties following a state takeover. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday morning, stated that Disney will be responsible for paying its debts in the Reedy Creek Improvement District amid fears that the state’s takeover of the district would result in the debt flowing to taxpayers in surrounding counties.

Reedy Creek currently holds around $1 billion in debt and has an operating budget of approximately $100 million per year, leading some state lawmakers and local governments to raise questions asking how the bill would be footed should the state take control of the district.

DeSantis, however, claimed that Disney will be required to honor its debts under standard procedure. A bill filed earlier this week detailing a name change and restructuring of Reedy Creek’s Board of Supervisor appointment process stated that outstanding debts would not be affected by any of the ongoing changes.

“Disney is going to pay its fair share of taxes and honor its debt. When we first went down this road last spring, a lot of folks in the media were saying that Disney would pay less taxes and Floridians will pay more taxes,” said DeSantis. “This puts that to bed. Those debts will be honored and paid.”

Should the bill be adopted, Reedy Creek would undergo a name change to ‘the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District,’ as well as grant DeSantis the power to appoint members to the five-person Board of Supervisors, pending subsequent confirmation by the state Senate.

Under current Florida law, landowners within Reedy Creek elect Board members. Due to Disney’s ownership of much of the land within the district, the corporation was effectively able to select desired individuals. With the bill’s passage, the state would complete its takeover of Reedy Creek.

“If you look at the bill, at least a dozen things where powers they had like building their own nuclear power plant is gone. There are another dozen things that were modified,” said House Speaker Paul Renner. “But the most important thing is that they were the watchdogs of themselves, and now they’re not. The governor’s appointees will be fully in control of that special district.”

DeSantis set his sights on Reedy Creek last year after Disney publicly opposed a law that restricts instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.

As a result, House lawmakers swiftly passed a bill (SB 4-C) to officially eliminate the special district that allows Disney to self-govern its Orlando-area theme park but gave until June of this year for lawmakers to make needed changes.

“Until Governor DeSantis acted, the Walt Disney Company maintained sole control over the District. This power amounted to an unaccountable corporate kingdom,” the Office of the Governor told The Capitolist. 

Reedy Creek was created by the Florida state legislature in 1967 to provide local government services for the Walt Disney World resort. The district operated as its own government, with powers similar to those of a county, and is responsible for providing services such as fire protection, building inspection, and waste management.


  1. Deborah Coffey

    What a ridiculous performance! DeSantis’ lust for power knows no bounds.

  2. Roger Black

    Seems like a good way to get Disney to move future investments out of state.

  3. David Dignam

    No amusement park should ever have that much power to self-govern their operation. No other corporation has such a perk, and no one should have the chance to again. Governments answer to its people, not a corporation period.

    • Frank Thompson

      You do realize that are many other districts in place like Reedy Creek in the state?

    • Anonymous

      Other corporations self govern and pay no taxes… they’re called religious cults

    • Tom

      What you say should also include ending corporate political donations that buy politicians and influence.

  4. Terry Lawson

    Reedy Creek has run smoothly since ‘67. DeSantis decided to throw a fit because Disney spoke out against him and pulled campaign funds. This isn’t about doing right by Floridians. It’s about DeSantis throwing a tantrum. This will cost Florida taxpayers. If you think a company like Disney is going to roll over and let DeSantis do anything he wants this affecting their bottom line, then you don’t realize how big Disney is.

    • Lewis Brehm

      Absolutely, demand DESANTIS post the 56 year old agreement between Disney and Orlando, Osceola Counties and State of Florida. When the people of Orange and Osceola taxes property, sales tax hoes up and then DA DeSantis enacts state wage taxes you know it’s derived from the Mickey Mouse deal he essentially messed up. DEMAND THE CONTRACT, be posted in Sentinel on Sundays for 4 straight weeks.

  5. John Ells

    When you buy a corporation, you assume their debt as well. DeSantis must have been partying when basic Business 101 was taught.
    I hope the good people of Orange County have a high Credit rating; you will own the bill when the Creditors call in all the notes. The Disney debt may have been a “poison pill” for DeSantis’s hissy fit for disagreeing with him. It is unfortunate that DeSantis created a Florida Poison Pill telling Industries any agreement made between you and Florida is a Machiavellian agreement: Any agreement is worth only the paper it is written on. Disney had that agreement in hand for decades, now it is worthless.
    As to “Power of an amusement park”, show me any large corporation that does not have special privileges. Disney simply did not want entanglements in its operations from local Governments. During negotiations I assume local Governments did not want the burden of police, emergency services, power plant and other infrastructure obligations but they did want jobs. I offer DeSantis interference now as proof, a purely childish reaction to someone who disagrees with him and supports its employees. If the State disagreed to the terms, then, we would be traveling to Atlanta to visit Disney World. And if Disney sues the State for Breach of Contract, who will pay their legal fees when the State loses. And let’s not forget who will pay for the State’s legal costs, especially if they contract out and use an outside Legal organization. You pay, not DeSantis.
    Will the Disney Parks soon look like the Ukraine city of Chernobyl? Who will manage the properties in Florida. State or local Govt. employees from senior managers to grass mowers, contract out management to political friends or keep Disney Management where they are. So, what is the point of the hissy fit?

  6. Paul

    Ron DeSatan is just trying to punish the Democratic base which mostly makes up the whole Orlando/Reedy Creek district out of pure spite. Sad pathetic, paranoid little man.

  7. witchywoman829ione

    I guess he doesn’t want to win Florida in the upcoming Presidential election. If he thinks that the taxpayers won’t be paying this bill then he’s got another thing coming.

  8. Ronald

    So much for Republcians being for small government and free speech. DeSantis and Florida Republican are (ab)using their powers by retaliation against Disney and punishing a private companies for speaking out against a law is such draconian matter is the is the epitome of big government, it is a textbook example of being of the government violating First Amendment rights to Free Speech.

  9. Theresa

    Another Trump

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