Disney to lose special tax status for opposing Florida’s hateful ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

General views of the Walt Disney 'Partners' statue at Magic Kingdom in Disney World in Orlando, Florida

Florida lawmakers approved a bill that will end Disney’s special tax status in an apparent response to its opposition to the state’s reviled ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. 

The state legislature approved a bill that would dissolve special tax districts created in Florida before 1968 during a special session brought forward by governor Ron DeSantis. The measure targets the state’s top attraction Disney World, which operates within the Reedy Creek Improvement district.

The Florida Senate approved the measure by a 23-16 vote, Reuters reported. The House voted 70-38 on Thursday (21 April) to strip the attraction of its special tax status. 

The bill is now on governor Ron DeSantis’ desk and it’s expected that he will sign it into law given that he has adamantly spoken out against Disney in recent weeks.  

The Republican governor said in a fundraising email on Wednesday (20 April) – seen by the New York Times – that he wouldn’t “allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state”.  

“If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy,” DeSantis wrote.

Should he sign the measure into law, Disney’s special district will be dissolved in June 2023.

Disney struck a deal with the state in 1967 to allow it near-total control over a large section of land in central Florida. The special status allows the company to levy tax, run emergency services, build roads and control utilities on the lands of its bustling theme park. 

Democrats have warned that dissolving Reedy Creek Improvement district’s status would have dire consequences on taxpayers across the state. 

Senator Gary Farmer said that the “debt service alone for Reedy Creek is over a billion dollars” and that the bill “makes no provision as to how that debt service is going to be assumed”, CNN reported. 

“Local government entities must pick up assets and liabilities of any special district that is dissolved,” Farmer said. 

Democratic state representative Fentrice Driskell told CNN that the measure would “cost the government in Orange County and Osceola Counties” as well as taxpayers “billions of dollars”. Driskell estimated this would result in an “additional tax burden” of approximately “$2,200 to $2,800 per family”.

The move against Disney comes as the entertainment giant is embroiled in a feud with GOP-lawmakers over Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Disney came under fire after initially failing to take a public stand against the measure – which bans discussions of LGBT+ issues in Florida schools – and for donating money to Republicans pushing the bill

The move resulted in mass walkouts of Disney’s LGBT+ staff and allies as well as condemnation from celebrities and advocates around the world. 

After the swift backlash, Disney denounced the legislation and said it would pause all its political donations in Florida

Disney vowed to fight for the LGBT+ community by getting the controversial legislation “repealed” or “struck down in the courts” after DeSantis signed the bill into law in March.

In response, DeSantis said the company had “crossed the line”, and he has continuously labelled Disney as “woke”