Repeal of Disney’s Reedy Creek ‘will not cause tax increases’ for Floridians, DeSantis press secretary says

Christina Pushaw tweets teaser for Reedy Creek plan

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, listens during a press conference, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier) (cropped) (Marta Lavandier, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rent prices are surging in Orlando as hundreds enter homelessness on an annual basis, but while Orange and Osceola county taxpayers look to see if Gov. Ron DeSantis’ planned 2023 dissolving of the Reedy Creek Improvement District will make it even more expensive to live in Central Florida, the governor’s press secretary Christina Pushaw on Thursday said such concerns were “a fit about some baseless hypothetical.”

On Twitter, teasing “more to come,” Pushaw said Disney would pay its fair share of taxes, no Floridians would be “on the hook” and a plan to make that happen would be made available in the next few weeks.

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“Partisan politicians (and their stenographers in the press) are making unsubstantiated statements that do not stand up to logic,” Pushaw said. “Let’s think about this for a minute: If it’s true that the repeal of the special district would hand Disney a tax break, and the local taxpayers would be on the hook for this bail-out to benefit Disney... then why would Disney oppose repealing their special district? Indeed, why wouldn’t Disney have lobbied to get rid of the special district long ago?”

DeSantis signed SB 4C into law Friday, which by June 1, 2023, will dissolve six special districts in Florida, including Reedy Creek. Though more special districts than Disney’s are targeted, Florida Rep. Randy Fine, R-District 53, author of SB 4C, said the legislation exists because Disney “chose to kick the hornet’s nest,” as the company spoke out against the “Parental Rights in Education” law and paused all political donations in the state.

Within hours of the signing event, credit rating agency Fitch Ratings placed a “rating watch negative” on nearly $1 billion in outstanding RCID bond debt, a mountain of owed money that Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph told News 6 would potentially land on taxpayers.

When it comes to the future of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the board of supervisors Wednesday made clear they were as uncertain about Florida’s new law stripping Walt Disney World of its self-governing power as most people are.

“If Reedy Creek is dissolved, my guess would be Orange County would have to raise property taxes 15 to 20%; now that’s not your whole tax bill, right, because your tax bill involves school and other things, but your Orange County government portion of your tax bill will probably have to go up 15 to 20% to take on that cost,” Randolph said.

Local leaders did not have much time to react to the rushed bill, filed April 19 and signed into law three days later. Those who so far have spoken out, such as Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, are outwardly concerned over who will end up paying not only Reedy Creek’s debt, but its ongoing municipal services as well.

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

Tax collector Scott Randolph said Orange County would also be taking on, potentially, $1 billion to $2 billion in bond debt.

Before DeSantis signed SB 4C, he told a crowd at a Hialeah Gardens charter school not to worry about footing the bill.

“Now, people will say they (Reedy Creek) do have services, utilities -- we’re going to take care of all that. Don’t worry, this is all -- we have everything thought out. Don’t let anyone tell you that somehow Disney is going to get a tax cut out of this. They’re going to pay more taxes as a result of that,” DeSantis said.

Pushaw’s tweet echoed DeSantis’ rhetoric directly.

“As Governor DeSantis has said, Disney will pay its fair share of taxes, and abolishing the special district will not cause tax increases for the residents of any area of Florida,” Pushaw said.

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.