“How can this not be blackmail?” said Scott Randolph, a tax collector in Orange County. “Why would a company want to invest in Florida when the whole rules could be changed in 72 hours? To me, that sends a scary message about the business environment in Florida.”
Under the arrangement, the company has the right to expropriate private property, build a nuclear power plant and ignore zoning and safety rules, said Randy Fine, the Republican lawmaker who sponsored the bill to end Disney’s self-governing concessions. He said the real issue for Disney was about “control – it’s not really about the money”.
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As it became increasingly clear this week that the measure would be enacted, some Florida residents expressed growing concerns about the tax implications, although it is not yet certain what they might ultimately be.
While the new law ostensibly excludes Disney’s big perks, such as issuing its own building permits, Democrats warn that it leaves Orange and Ossola counties in Central Florida with the bag for about $163 million in annual taxes. Others, including Mr. Randolph, have warned that local property owners could see significant property tax increases.
Disney was paying taxes for itself, using the money to pay for things like the police and fire services. Now, Orange County says it will have to pay for municipal services to theme parks that Disney paid for through Reddy Creek, the special tax district that the legislature repealed.
“Political revenge is clearly the key factor here,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings told reporters. “We are trying to understand what the legislator is trying to do in this case, but I think they haven’t thought enough about the ramifications of what they’ve proposed at this point.”
Mr. DeSantis, for his part, insisted Disney would “pay more taxes” and declared “we’ve thought of everything”.