- 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.