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DeSantis says Disney will pay for $1 billion bond debt

Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 11:21 AM EDT
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Gov. Ron DeSantis responded to Disney’s claim that Florida would have to pay $1 billion in bond to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

The Walt Disney Co. has remained publicly silent since DeSantis signed a law last week dissolving the Reedy Creek Improvement District, but a letter to investors shows they're not going down without a fight.

Disney recently told investors the state would be unable to resolve the district without paying for the district’s outstanding debt obligations of about $1 billion. In the meantime, the district is considering its options while conducting business as usual.

The debt pledge is in the Reedy Creek Act the state enacted in May 1967, the district said in a statement filed with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

In an Orlando town hall with Fox News, DeSantis said Disney will be paying their own bond debt.

"It just simply ends with them being treated the same as every other company in Florida," he said. "They're going to follow laws. They're not going to have their own government. They're going to pay their debts, pay their taxes."

DeSantis told Fox News host Laura Ingram that there will be more legislation to address questions raised about tax implications of unraveling Disney's self-governing status.

Orange County officials have also raised alarm about a raise in taxes due to the responsibility to maintain and service the nearly 40 square mile area. It is an over $160,000,000 obligation, which officials say they do not have the money to cover.

“There's going to be additional legislative action," DeSantis said. "We've contemplated that. We know what we're going to do, so stay tuned. That'll all be apparent."

The Reedy Creek Improvement District gave Disney the right to govern itself like a city. It allowed Disney to raise its own revenues to pay for municipal infrastructure expenses like roads, waste services, fire safety and water at Disney World. Reedy Creek also issued bonds and levied taxes on properties within its boundaries, which border the Orlando area, effectively on behalf of Disney.

The dissolution act was passed after weeks of tension between DeSantis and the Walt Disney Co. over the passage of the controversial Parental Rights in Education law, known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

DeSantis didn't shy away from his reasoning for dissolving the district.

"I am not comfortable having one company with their own government and special privileges, when that company has pledged itself to attacking the parents in my state," he said. "When that company has very high-up people talking about injecting pansexualism into programing for young kids, it's wrong. Walt Disney would not want that. And so get back to the mission. Do what you did great. That's why people love the company, and you've lost your way. Maybe this will be the wake-up call that they need to get back on track."

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