Removing Reedy Creek Improvement District Could Transfer $2 Billion Debt From Disney to Taxpayers

Partners Statue with Cinderella Castle

Yesterday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a special session of the Florida Legislature and introduced a bill to get rid of districts that were established prior to November 1968, targeting the Reedy Creek Improvement District established around Walt Disney World Resort in 1967. More details are now emerging about what would happen if DeSantis was able to get rid of the district.

Mary Ellen Klas, Capitol Bureau Chief of the Miami Herald, tweeted a thread about the district and bill last night amid the senate session. The Walt Disney Company owes approximately $2 billion in debt, which would be transferred to “general purpose government,” State Senator Jennifer Bradley said. This means it would likely go to the residents of Orange County and Osceola County, assessed at $2,200 per family.

Klas tweeted that when asked if the 1.7 million residents of these counties should be asked if they want to assume the debt, Senator Bradley avoided an answer.

Klas quoted Senator Jeff Brandes, who said, “My concern is this bill essentially wipes away Disney’s $2 billion of debt…if the legislative intent here is ultimately to attack them, then why would we want to cancel $2 billion of debt?”

In a separate thread, Klas quoted Senator Linda Stewart, whose district includes Walt Disney World. Stewart has spoken with Disney executives and concluded that the Legislature cannot dissolve the district without the approval of district voters, going on to say, “And since most of the residential landowners are all Disney employees, I don’t think that they’re going to want it dissolved.”

DeSantis had previously said he was “receptive” to repealing the act that created the district around Walt Disney World. He has been targeting the company’s “special privileges” ever since they took a hard stance against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The self-described purpose of the Reedy Creek Improvement District is “to support and administer certain aspects of the economic development and tourism within District boundaries.” The creation of the district means Walt Disney World and other landowners pay for local essential services like water, electricity, fire protection, and emergency medical services instead of taxpayers.

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