Florida taxpayers are suing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for potentially saddling them with over $1 billion in debt after he revoked Disney’s special zoning agreement after the company criticized his Don’t Say Gay law.
Michael Foronda, Edward Foronda and Vivian Gorsky — three taxpayers who live near the Walt Disney World theme park and resort in Orlando — filed the lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday. Their filing says that they (and other taxpayers) “will now have to assume the tax burden that Disney previously assumed under the special tax status,” Courthouse News reported.
Last month, DeSantis revoked Disney’s decades-old special zoning agreement that basically allowed Disney to self-govern the 39-square mile Reedy Creek Improvement District. The agreement allowed Disney to operate the district’s zoning laws and its municipal services, including its police and fire departments.
Dissolving the special tax district means taxpayers will now have to pay the estimated $58 million annually required to provide those and other services. That will likely increase local property taxes between 20 to 25 percent. Additionally, Disney issued bonds with the state worth more than $1 billion. The dissolution of the district now means that the state is on the hook for the bond debt.
Disney has reminded Florida of these costs, and the state has jeopardized its bond ratings because of its actions. A lowered bond rating would mean that Florida’s taxpayers will have to pay out more on the state government’s bonds.
The plaintiffs’ lawsuit named DeSantis Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee and Florida Department of Revenue Director Jim Zingale as defendants.
DeSantis’ office has yet to comment on the lawsuit, but last week, his spokesperson Christina Pushaw — a woman who accused “Don’t Say Gay” critics of being pedophiles — said that Florida taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay for Disney’s dissolved special district. But she offered no specifics.