- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2022

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Four Florida residents are suing to block the state from dissolving Disney’s special tax district on the grounds it will force taxpayers to pick up the theme park’s $1 billion debt burden.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Miami by three residents of Osceola County and one resident from Orange County. The two counties will take over the 39-square-mile Reedy Creek Special Improvement District in 2023 under the new law ending the park’s 55-year autonomy. 

The district includes four theme parks, a shopping and hotel district, and 139 miles of roads.

Disney’s autonomous status allows the company to collect taxes from landowners on the property which they use to maintain and make improvements to the district. 

The suit also names Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed the legislation into law last month following a public battle with Disney over the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits sex education in kindergarten through third grade. 

Mr. DeSantis last week denied the new law will force county taxpayers to take on Disney’s debt.

“Under no circumstances will Disney be able to not pay its debts,” Mr. DeSantis said. “We will make sure of that. Do not worry about that.”

He moved to end Disney’s special tax district after company executives publicly lobbied to stop, and then repeal, the Parental Rights legislation, which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill because it prohibits teachers from discussing LGBTQ issues.

The GOP-led legislature passed the measure in April during a special session. Democrats voted against the bill, arguing it was retaliatory and fiscally reckless.

Disney executives have remained mostly silent on the law, but last week posted a public statement to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board indicating that Florida cannot dissolve its Reedy Creek Special Improvement District because it has not paid off $1 billion in debt.

Disney‘s statement included language from the 1967 law creating the special district, declaring Florida cannot dissolve or alter the district in any way “until all such bonds together with interest thereon, and all costs and expenses in connection with any act or proceeding by or on behalf of such holders, are fully met and discharged.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide