Gov. Ron DeSantis is escalating the fight between the state and its largest tourist attraction, Walt Disney World.
Disney has been under fire from Republicans since last year when the company took a public stance on the state’s parental rights in education legislation, which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
As revenge, the Legislature approved a new law this year taking control of a Disney-appointed government board that oversees the resort’s infrastructure and emergency services. DeSantis appointed five new members to run the board.
But the latest twist has been Disney’s old governing board approving long-term deals stripping the state-controlled board of its power. The agreements were approved in a public meeting in the final days before the state took over.
Speaking Friday in Ocala, DeSantis vowed the state will work to overturn the agreements made by the old board.
“There will be additional legislative action taken in Tallahassee that will nullify what they tried to do at the 11th hour and then potentially arm the board with the ability to make sure that this is run appropriately,” DeSantis said.
“We need to make sure that people understand whether you’re an individual or you’re a corporation that you don’t get to play by your own rules.”
On Thursday night, DeSantis hinted at other steps the state could take against Disney as he spoke at the conservative private Hillsdale College in Michigan.
“We’re not just going to void the development agreement they tried to do. We’re going to look at things, like taxes on the hotels, we’re going to look at things like tolls on the roads, we’re going to look at things like developing some of the property that the district owns,” DeSantis said, according to Florida Playbook published by Politico reporter Gary Fineout.
“They are not superior to the people of Florida. So come hell or high water, we’re going to make sure that policy of Florida carries the day. And so they can keep trying to do things. But ultimately we’re going to win on every single issue involving Disney, I can tell you that.”
DeSantis has already called on Florida’s Chief Inspector General to investigate the old board.
Earlier this week, Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger called out DeSantis for punishing Disney when the company exercised its right to freedom of speech. Iger called it “anti-Florida” and “anti-business” to attack Disney which Iger pointed out is the state’s largest employer, draws in millions of visitors every year and is preparing to spend $17 billion over the next 10 years at Disney World.