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Ron DeSantis Threatens To Build A Theme Park Near Magic Kingdom In Retaliation For The Company’s Refusal For State Takeover

Ron DeSantis Threatens To Build A Competing Theme Park Near Magic Kingdom In Retaliation For The Company's Refusal For State Takeover. (Photo: CNN)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened on Monday to build a prison or a competing theme park near the Magic Kingdom or to hike taxes on Walt Disney World, in retaliation for the company’s refusal to allow the state to take over its special taxing district.

The Florida Republican laid out his strategy for exacting payback on the House of Mouse. (Photo:

DeSantis To Nullify Disney’s Attempt To Keep Control Of The District

The Florida Republican laid out his strategy for exacting payback on the House of Mouse, saying the GOP-controlled state legislature will take steps to “formally nullify” Disney’s attempts to keep control of the district through last-minute maneuvering.

DeSantis stated that lawmakers will introduce legislation to “ensure that people understand that you don’t get to put your own company ahead of the will of the people of Florida.”

DeSantis took over the Reedy Creek Improvement District earlier this year, a special taxing district that has given Disney authority over the area around its Central Florida theme parks for the past half-century, and installed his political cronies on the district’s board of supervisors. However, Disney secured a deal with the outgoing board in February that appeared to render the body helpless to oversee the entertainment behemoth. For a month, the DeSantis administration was uninformed of the pact and pledged retaliation once it became known.

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DeSantis Retaliated By Focusing On The Greedy Creek Improvement District

The conflict between Florida and its largest employer began last year when the state passed new legislation restricting sexual orientation and gender identity classroom education. Disney objected to the bill and promised to work to have it repealed. DeSantis retaliated by focusing on the Reedy Creek Improvement District. On Thursday, DeSantis suggested that Disney “take a hike” if it didn’t like how the state was run.

DeSantis termed the deal “defective” and said it was not properly notified, according to state law, on an Orlando radio show on Monday. Disney has insisted that it complied with state meeting regulations. The agreement was reached during two public meetings, which were publicized in the local newspaper.

DeSantis also stated that the new board in charge of Disney’s taxing district will meet on Wednesday to “make sure Disney is held accountable.” According to the agenda, the board will discuss terminating existing personnel and taking over development management inside the district.

The board, which is comprised of five DeSantis appointees, will also direct personnel to cooperate with an investigation by the state inspector general. DeSantis initiated the investigation earlier this month.

Later that day, DeSantis hinted that the state would construct a prison or its own theme park near to Walt Disney World.

“Now that I think about it, people are saying, ‘Well, what should we do with this land?'”‘DeSantis stated. “Perhaps establish a state park.” Perhaps visit more amusement parks. Someone even suggested that you build another state prison. Who knows, really? I mean, I simply believe the possibilities are limitless.”

DeSantis also stated that the new board in charge of Disney’s special taxing district may boost taxes on the company’s huge theme park empire. He proposed that the additional cash be utilized to pay down the district’s existing debt, which, if realized, would allow the state to close the district permanently. The 1967 law that established the district precludes the state from dissolving it without first repaying its debt.

The district’s substantial debt, estimated at $1 billion last year, prevented the state from enacting a new law that would have dissolved the district by this June. Instead, the state voted early this year to maintain the district but put DeSantis appointees in charge of its governing board.

Meanwhile, Wilton Simpson, the state agricultural commissioner, stated his support for legislation mandating state inspections of amusement parks. Currently, the state regulates minor amusement park rides but not those at large theme parks such as Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, and Busch Gardens.

However, DeSantis stated that the measure would only apply to parks in “special districts,” whereas other theme parks are not governed by special districts.

DeSantis denied that his administration had been outmaneuvered by Disney and called its agreement to reclaim power a “legal fiction.” He said the agreement Disney reached with the outgoing board had a “plethora of legal infirmities” and that the GOP-controlled legislature would quickly pass legislation to nullify it.

“Disney basically did special deals to circumvent that whole process, and they, so they control the board,” DeSantis explained. “It was basically like a legal fiction they negotiated with its – with themselves, to give themselves the ability to maintain their self-governing status.”

Earlier Monday, Good Morning Orlando anchor Simon Conway asked DeSantis if he would accept a meeting with Disney CEO Bob Iger to address the problem. Iger told Time magazine recently that he would welcome a meeting with the Republican governor.

DeSantis stated that he would do so if Disney agreed “that they are not going to live under a different set of rules than everyone else.”

“If we can get there, that’s fine,” he remarked. “But we’re not quite there yet.”

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