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Election Is Over, So Florida May Decide It Loves Disney After All

Back in April, Ron DeSantis wanted to show the Florida voters that he was the most anti-woke politician in the state. So he picked a fight with the state's biggest employer, the Walt Disney Company, which employs about 45,000 people in Florida. The fight was about his pet "Don't say gay" law, which many of Disney's employees don't like. Disney was also an easy target because: (1) moving its Orlando-based parks to a different state would be horrendously expensive and (2) punishing it would be easy. The reason it was easy to punish Disney is that its parks are all situated in the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which functions like a city unto itself, thus avoiding property tax and local sales tax. To carry out the punishment, DeSantis asked the legislature to abolish Reedy Creek, which it did. Take that, Disney!

Now that the election is over, DeSantis doesn't have to play Macho Man anymore. One of the consequences of abolishing Reedy Creek is that the state now has to assume Reedy Creek's billion-dollar debt from the sale of its bonds. That means Florida may have to raise taxes to cover the interest and principal on the bonds. Raising taxes wouldn't look so good for DeSantis. So now the state legislature is working on legislation to give Reedy Creek (and the bonds) back to Disney. Of course, DeSantis knew about the debt all along. The whole business of punishing Disney was just an election stunt. The whole point was to show the voters how much DeSantis hated "woke" and was determined to fight it tooth and nail.

Proof that the whole thing was just a stunt to fool the voters was a provision in the April law that the reversion would not take place until the summer of 2023, giving the legislature time to undo it before it even kicked in. It was never serious in the first place. Maybe there will be some minor modifications so DeSantis can still claim victory ("Now they have to pay sales tax on the sale of Goofy dolls!"). The official cover story is that Disney has changed management recently, with Bob Chapek out and Bob Iger back in, and the state can't blame Iger for things Chapek did. This story is fishier than the Everglades, but the stunt accomplished its goal: getting DeSantis reelected, so the governor doesn't care if nobody believes it. And DeSantis can use it again when he runs for president.

In fact, taking on big companies and "the elites" is probably going to be the campaign theme for the Yale and Harvard Law-educated governor who was a a three-term congressman before being elected governor. That résumé is almost as good as working as a waiter in a small diner somewhere in rural Florida. (V)

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