‘Catastrophic:’ If Disney loses self-government, it will cost taxpayers

Rollins College professor, Orange County mayor say residents would feel impact

With the state legislature passing a measure to strip Walt Disney World of its self-governing powers, concerns are increasing for what kind of an impact it will have on Central Florida.

ORLANDO, Fla. – With Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a bill to strip Walt Disney World of its self-governing powers, concerns are increasing for what kind of an impact it will have on Central Florida.

Richard Foglesong, a retired Rollins College political science professor and the author of “Married to the Mouse,” said the bill was rushed through by lawmakers and local residents could bear the consequences.

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“I think this was an effort to punish the Walt Disney Company. It may not have that affect though,” he said. The cost of taking away these powers will likely fall on Orange County taxpayers.”

After the bill was introduced, Orange County leaders voiced concerns that dissolving of the Reedy Creek Improvement District would mean Orange and Osceola counties will likely shoulder the burden of providing municipal services.

“That would be catastrophic for our budget here within Orange County,” Mayor Jerry Demings said. “It would put an undue burden on the rest of the taxpayers in Orange County to fill that gap.”

Orange County’s tax collector has said the move could lead to jump in property taxes, but GOP lawmakers have indicated they’re open to working on a new deal with Disney.

The Florida House of Representatives on Thursday gave final passage to a bill that would dissolve Walt Disney World’s private government, handing Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis a victory in his feud with the entertainment giant over its opposition to a measure that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“I’m thinking that in the next year, there will be some changes made in this legislation,” Foglesong said.

Future negotiations could mean the state takes away some, but not all of Disney’s powers to self-govern.

Regardless of what happens, Foglesong said voters will likely play a big part in the outcome.

“The consequences of this withdrawal of the powers are so consequential, that I’m inclined to think that at the end of the day cooler heads will prevail,” he said.


About the Author:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.