DeSantis: Why I Stood Up to Disney
Written by Governor Ron DeSantis for the Wall Street Journal
On Monday, I signed the law ending the Walt Disney Co.’s self-governing status over 43 square miles in central Florida, an area almost as big as Miami. Disney no longer has its own government. It has to live under the same laws as Universal Studios, SeaWorld and every other company in our state and is still on the hook for the old district’s municipal debt.
Disney’s special arrangement, which dates to 1967, was an indefensible example of corporate welfare. It provided the company with favorable tax treatment, including the ability to assess its own property valuations and to enjoy the benefits of regional infrastructure improvements without paying taxes toward the projects. It exempted Disney from Florida’s building and fire-prevention codes. It even allowed Disney to build a nuclear power plant and to use eminent domain to seize private property outside the district’s boundaries. While special districts are common in Florida, Disney’s deal was conspicuous in the massive benefits it conferred. Disney’s self-governing status endured because the company’s unrivaled political power in Florida made its arrangement virtually untouchable.