Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is calling the basis of a lawsuit that claims stripping Walt Disney World’s self-governing status will financially burden Florida’s taxpayers “misinformation.”
“There is no scenario where the state would inherit Disney’s debt — this is misinformation,” Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for Gov. DeSantis’s office, told the Washington Examiner Thursday afternoon.
On April 22, DeSantis signed a bill into law dismantling the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which allows Disney to oversee its own zoning, infrastructure, laws, and policing.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in a Florida federal court, claims the dissolving of Reedy Creek will likely raise taxes to help pay off Disney’s bond debt, which is estimated to be between $1 and 2 billion.
“The suggestions from those who are quarterbacking the possibilities here are their own wishful forecasting,” Pushaw said. “In other words, they are hoping, with no basis in reality, that this will end in some sort of taxpayer or state burden that partisan critics can use against the governor. In reality, this opportunity can and should be utilized to generate more taxes from Disney, as the governor has said.”
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In a recent interview with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, DeSantis assured taxpayers would not be on the hook for Disney’s debts.
“No, Disney will pay its debts,” DeSantis said, noting that additional legislation will be coming to ensure taxpayers are not held responsible. “Disney will, for the first time, actually live under the same laws as everyone else in Florida.”
The plaintiffs, identified as Michael Foronda, Edward Foronda, and Vivian Gorsky, seek to have the law declared unconstitutional on the grounds of violating Disney’s First Amendment rights.
“It is without question that Defendant Governor DeSantis intended to punish Disney for a 1st Amendment protected ground of free speech,” the lawsuit reportedly states.
While DeSantis and state Republicans maintain they pulled the special status because they "don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful," many Democrats have suggested the move is retaliatory in nature, intended to punish Disney for voicing opposition to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act.
Many critics of the bill have dubbed it the "Don't Say Gay" bill despite those words not appearing in the legislation.
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"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," DeSantis said.
"When that company has very high-up people talking about injecting pansexualism into programming for young kids, it's wrong,” the governor continued. “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."