Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis shot down a report Friday that the state is eyeing a “U-turn” in its crackdown on Disney following a months-long flap over the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
DeSantis fired back after the Financial Times reported Florida lawmakers were crafting terms that would allow Disney to retain its autonomy over Reedy Creek Improvement District – months after they revoked the company’s special tax status.
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The Florida governor “does not make U-turns,” DeSantis’s deputy press secretary Jeremy Redfern said.
He also affirmed that Florida taxpayers would not face a greater financial burden from Disney’s debts – raising doubts about the Mouse House’s ability to regain the full extent of its former special tax status.
“The governor was right to champion removing the extraordinary benefit given to one company through the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” Redfern said in a statement.
“We will have an even playing field for businesses in Florida, and the state certainly owes no special favors to one company,” Redfern added. “Disney’s debts will not fall on the taxpayers of Florida. A plan is in the works and will be released soon.”
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According to the FT’s report, Bob Iger’s shock return as Disney CEO last month is expected to pave the way for a compromise after the Mouse House’s previous boss, Bob Chapek, infuriated Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by publicly condemning the law.
The revised deal would “keep the arrangement largely in place with a few modifications,” the report said, citing sources who have been briefed on the plan.
Chapek’s abrupt exit made it more likely that “something will get sorted out” between Disney and Florida’s Republican-controlled state government, according to state Rep. Randy Fine, who wrote the bill that revoked the company’s special tax status last April.
“It’s easier to shift policy when you don’t have to defend the old policy,” Fine told the Financial Times. “Chapek screwed up, but Bob Iger doesn’t have to own that screw-up.”
“It seems like Disney and the legislature have motivation to make a deal. Nobody wants a train wreck,” another source told the outlet.
The Post has reached out to Disney for comment.
Chapek’s bungled handling of the situation was reportedly one of the key factors in Disney’s decision to oust him from its top gig. The ex-CEO initially stayed silent on the law — which bans teachers from discussing LGBTQ topics like sexual orientation or gender identity with younger students – in a move that enraged left-leaning Disney employees and triggered large-scale protests.
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After weeks of internal pressure Chapek later reversed course and ripped the Republican-backed legislation, prompting DeSantis and his allies to pull its special tax status.
At the time, DeSantis said Chapek had “crossed the line” by publicly weighing in on a political matter.
Prior to that decision, Disney enjoyed near autonomy over the Reedy Creek district and maintained control over local police and fire departments as well as infrastructure management. Critics argued the decision to end Disney’s special tax status would unfairly transfer a massive tax burden to state residents.
Iger was publicly critical of the “Don’t Say Gay” law when it was enacted, but the FT noted he has remained silent on the situation since resuming duties as CEO.
Iger addressed the dispute during a town hall meeting with Disney employees earlier this week.
“What I can say [is] the state of Florida has been important to us for a long time and we have been very important to the state of Florida,” Iger said. “That is something I’m extremely mindful of and will articulate if I get the chance.”
The FT quoted an “influential figure in Florida state politics” as saying that Iger’s initial message on the matter was “a good olive branch message to Disney employees and the state of Florida.”