“How is this not black mail?” said Scott Randolph, the Orange County tax collector. “Why would a business want to invest in Florida when the entire rules can change in 72 hours? To me this sends a scary message about the business environment in Florida.”
Randy Fine, the Republican legislator who sponsored the bill to end Disney’s special self-governing privileges, said that under the arrangement, the company had the right to seize private property, build a nuclear power plant and ignore zoning rules and safety codes. The real issue for Disney, he said, was about “control — this isn’t really about money.”
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As it became increasingly clear this week that the measure would be enacted, some Floridians expressed growing concerns around the tax implications, though it is not yet certain what those may ultimately be.
While the new law ostensibly takes away big perks for Disney, like issuing its own building permits, Democrats warn that it leaves Central Florida’s Orange and Osceola counties holding the bag for some $163 million in annual taxes. Others, including Mr. Randolph, warned that local property owners could see significant property tax hikes.
Disney had been paying taxes to itself, using the money to pay for things like the police and fire services. Now, Orange County says it will have to take on the costs for municipal services to theme parks that Disney had paid for through Reedy Creek, the special taxing district the legislature eliminated.
“It’s obvious that it is political retribution that is at play here,” Jerry Demings, the mayor of Orange County, told reporters. “We are trying to understand what the legislature is trying to do in this case, but I believe they have not adequately contemplated the ramifications of what they have proposed at this point.”
Mr. DeSantis, for his part, insisted that Disney would “pay more taxes” and declared that “we have everything thought out.”