Disney District Calls DeSantis' Bluff, Says State Must Pay Off $1B Debt

Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) recently said that Florida can't terminate the district unless the state pays off Reedy Creek's $1 billion debt, fulfilling the state's pledge to bondholders per a 1967 act.

Reedy Creek currently has around $1 billion in extensive bond debt, according to Fitch Ratings, a credit rating agency.

Reedy Creek argued in a statement, posted to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board on April 21, that Florida pledged to the District's bondholders that "it will not limit or alter the rights of the District."

"[Florida] will not in any way impair the rights or remedies of the holders, and that it will not modify in any way the exemption from taxation provided in the Reedy Creek Act, until all such bonds together with interest thereon, and all costs and expenses in connection with any act or proceeding by or on behalf of such holders, are fully met and discharged."

The RCID was created as part of a 1967 act by Florida lawmakers under former Republican Governor Claude Kirk Jr. that granted the RCID self-governing authority on lands where the Walt Disney Resort is located.

The 1967 act allowed Disney to have control over lands where its theme parks are located in Florida. Due to the act the RCID has its own fire protection, utilities and planning, and security services.

As a result of a feud over the Parental Rights in Education bill that was recently signed into law, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last week signed the HB 3C bill stripping Disney of its special government agency rights and tax privileges in Florida. The bill is set to go into effect on June 1, 2023.

"Why should any company have the right to succeed from the state and govern itself? It's an extraordinary situation," Florida House Representative Randy Fine, who introduced the bill, told Newsweek on Friday.

The new bill aims to dismantle six governing special districts in Florida including the RCID which acts as Disney's government in Osceola and Orange counties.

However, Reedy Creek said last week that it will continue operations regardless, citing the state's pledge to bondholders.

"In light of the State of Florida's pledge to the District's bondholders, Reedy Creek expects to explore its options while continuing its present operations, including levying and collecting its ad valorem taxes and collecting its utility revenues, paying debt service on its ad valorem tax bonds and utility revenue bonds, complying with its bond covenants and operating and maintaining its properties," Reedy Creek added in the April 21 statement.

Disney Calls DeSantis’ Bluff
Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) said that Florida can't dissolve the district unless the state pays off Reedy Creek's $1 billion of debt, fulfilling the state's pledge to bondholders. Pictured above, the Cinderella Castle inside Magic Kingdom Park at the Walt Disney World Resort June 30, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Photo by Olga Thompson/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images

DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw said on Thursday that Disney will pay its "fair share of taxes" and confirmed that Floridians will not be "on the hook."

In an April 21 tweet, Pushaw slammed Disney saying: "Disney is not a victim of a tsunami or a mysterious butterfly effect. Disney is a corporation that built a family-friendly brand for generations, and inexplicably threw it away to advocate for teaching kids in K-3 about "pansexual" & "genderqueer."

"Go woke, go broke," she added.

Newsweek reached out to RCID for comment.

Updated 04/29/2022, at 4:22 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.