Walt Disney makes a strong charge against Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis likes to act like he's a man of the people. He portrays himself as someone taking on big government and huge corporations to stand up for his constituents.
The Republican candidate for president has taken a defiant attitude toward science and common sense in order to build his image as a younger, more rational version of Donald Trump. DeSantis has gone against doctors when it came to vaccines and masks in order to pander to his base and keep Florida open for business during the Covid pandemic.
You can argue that while his stance on Covid protocols was a pro-business one as it did keep businesses open, even if the cost was paid in people's lives. The right-wing governor's war with Walt Disney Co. (DIS) - Get Free Report, however, defies all business logic.
Walt Disney World, located outside Orlando, drives billions of dollars in tourism revenue to Florida. It's also the state's largest single-site employer paying a starting salary that is well above the state's minimum wage.
DeSantis has targeted Disney because its former CEO Bob Chapek took a public stance against the governor's so-called "Don't Say Gay" legislation. After Chapek's comments, DeSantis took over the former Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), the authority Disney controlled to handle municipal issues.
The governor has publicly called that move an attempt to take special privileges away from Disney, but he has done nothing about any of the nearly 2,000 other special districts in his state. DeSantis replaced the RCID board with a group of his handpicked political cronies -- a move he has not attempted for the special districts operated by Daytona International Speedway or The Villages retirement community.
DeSantis has steadily framed his actions as being about fairness and not having Disney get benefits at the expense of "regular" taxpayers. The numbers at the former RCID, now called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board (CFTOD), show that DeSantis' actions aren't really about protecting the state's taxpayers in any way.
Disney is the taxpayer
BlogMickey, an online news outlet concentrating on the tourism industry in and around Orlando, did some research into the former RCID. Bottom line: Disney pays more than 85% of the taxes in the district. The vast majority of the remaining taxes paid to the CFTOD come from hotels
"Other taxpayers in the district include the Four Seasons hotel, Swan & Dolphin hotel, Hilton, Wyndham, and considerably smaller payers like Duke Energy and Sunbelt Rentals. Of the roughly $185 million in ad valorem taxes collected by the Reedy Creek Improvement District (now CFTOD) in 2022, Disney World paid more than $161 million of that. The next-closest taxpayer was the Four Seasons, which paid a hair over $5 million. Of the dozens and dozens of taxpayers, only eight (including Disney) paid more than $1 million," the website reported.
So, while DeSantis board regularly cites its actions as being about saving taxpayers' money, its taxpayers are basically Disney and companies that make their money supporting Disney on an overwhelming basis. Disney World will, in fact, pay more in taxes than this year because improvements at its theme parks added $2 billion to its assessed value.
Disney calls the DeSantis dispute 'retaliation'
Disney and the State of Florida have been engaged in multiple lawsuits over the last two years.
In an 80-page Federal lawsuit filed in May, Disney has made it clear that DeSantis has been using his political power to single out and target the company.
"State leaders have not been subtle about their reasons for government intervention. They have proudly declared that Disney deserves this fate because of what Disney said. Indeed, just days ago, reaffirming the unequivocal intent of his retribution campaign and trumpeting its perceived success, Governor DeSantis openly celebrated: 'Since our skirmish last year, Disney has not been involved in any of those issues. They have not made a peep,” the lawsuit reads.
"This is as clear a case of retaliation as this Court is ever likely to see," the company added.
Current CEO Bob Iger has spoken out regularly about his company's protecting its right to free speech. He has also suggested that Disney might cut some of the $17 billion it plans to spend in Florida over the next 10 years.
Disney has already canceled a $1 billion headquarters project that would have moved 2,000 highly-paid workers from California to Florida.
DeSantis has brushed off that cancellation saying that Disney had never intended to actually build the project (despite the company telling the impacted workers that their jobs would be moving).
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