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The happiest place on earth is embroiled in a battle between lawmakers and Corporate America. Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill revoking Disney's 55-year-old special tax designation over a 2,500-acre part of the state known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID). The move comes as Disney has publicly opposed DeSantis and his party's enaction of the so-called "Don't Say Gay" law.
Disney's Central Florida compound, which includes Disneyworld and Epcot Center, attracts over 50 million tourists to the state annually and generates $5 billion in local and state taxes annually. Disney is also Florida's largest private employer.
In March, Disney paused political donations in the state and publicly condemned the "Don't Say Gay" bill, notes the New York Times, prompting Gov. DeSantis's retaliation. “If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy,” he said, adding that “Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long.”
The Culture Wars Goes To The Board Room
Disney has long tried to keep itself out of the culture wars by remaining silent on various hot-button issues. However, Florida's anti-LGBTQ legislation finally pushed the media titan into the fray. Disney employees protested the new bill as well as Disney's neutral position on the matter and effectively pressured board chairman Bob Chapek to take a side. Disney is "a big tent" explained Maurice Schwartz, a professor at the Wharton School of Business, to Vox. “The movies, the resorts, their brand — it’s this broad appeal.” Until now, Disney found that political neutrality was the best for its brand and business, “but that’s hard to keep up, especially as the world changes.”
It’s hard to imagine that Disney, which is not only such a massive employer in Florida, but a major political donor, will ever leave the state. However, DeSantis (who is clearly puffing his chest ahead of a 2024 Presidential bid) is rattling the 800-pound gorilla’s cage.