Florida strips Disney of tax breaks, leaves residents with financial burden 

Victoria Kenney

Florida rescinded the special district status given to the Walt Disney Co. on April 22, consequently removing tax breaks the company received from the state

The tax break was established in 1967 when Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District was developed during construction for the Walt Disney World Resort amusement park. The repeal order would take effect in June 2023, canceling the district and impacting residents’ taxes.

In return for the taxes that Disney paid over the two counties its park resides in, this district was  able to support the area by providing emergency services, treating water and sewage and issuing municipal bonds,” which results in indirect tax breaks according to Reuters. Disney essentially had full control on land usage and governing flexibility.

Disney is the state’s biggest tourist attraction, bringing in $5.8 billion in tax revenue and providing over 400,000 jobs. The company paid more than $750 million in taxes in 2021.

Following this move by the Florida state government, Disney will no longer expand its resort due to operation costs, thus impacting the earning potential for the state.

“If the counties are left holding the bag, the state might have to come to their aid,” Florida State Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer said, according to CNBC. “So it’s not even just a tax issue for these two counties. It affects every taxpayer in the state of Florida.”

This timing coincides with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ re-election campaign in reprisal to Disney’s stance on the recently signed Parental Rights in Education law, which is labeled by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law bans instruction about sexual identity and orientation in pre-kindergarten through third grade public school classrooms.

DeSantis recently signed a law that limits race-related discussions in businesses and classrooms.

Disney executives recently advanced their “Reimagine Tomorrow” marketing campaign, pledging to make 50% of their characters from underrepresented, minority groups, including the LGBTQ+ community.

Disney has also removed gendered wording around its parks, even changing the introduction to the park from  “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls” to their theme parks to “dreamers of all ages.”

“We oppose any legislation that infringes on basic human rights, and stand in solidarity and support our LGBTQIA+ cast, crew, guests and fans who make their voices heard today and every day,” Disney World wrote in a statement posted on its Instagram page.

Representatives for Disney said that they are in the process of fighting to repeal the removal of the special district.