Disney CEO Bob Iger on Wednesday criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ policy decisions during the company’s second-quarter earnings call.
The trade row arose following a question from a shareholder about Disney Parks in Florida, as the company faces political battles with the governor.
“As far as Florida goes, I have a few things to say about this bill,” Iger said. “First of all, the brief we filed last month made our position and the facts very clear. This is one thing and one thing only, and that is retaliation against us for having taken a position on pending legislation. And we believe that by taking this position, we are simply exercising our right to free speech. Moreover, it is not about special privileges, nor a level playing field, nor of Disney in any way using its leverage around the state of Florida.
“But since there’s been a lot of talk about special districts and the arrangement we had, I want to set the record straight on that as well. There are about 2,000 special districts in Florida, and most of them were created to investment in development. We were one of them. It made it easier for us and others to do business in Florida. And we built a company that employs , as we’ve said before, over 75,000 people and draws tens of millions of people to the state, so while it’s easy to say that the Reedy Creek Special District, which was created to benefited us more than 50 years ago, it’s misleading not to consider how much Disney has benefited the state of Florida. And we’re not the only company operating a special district. I I mentioned that the Daytona Speedway has one, a large retirement community, the Villages, and there are countless others. So if the goal here is to level the playing field and uniform application of the law, government oversight of special districts must take place or be applied to all special districts.
“There is also a false narrative that we are fighting to protect tax relief. But in fact, we’re Central Florida’s biggest taxpayer, paying over $1 billion in state and local taxes last year alone. We pay more taxes, especially more property taxes, because of this special district, and we all know that there has been no concerted effort to do anything to dismantle what used to be called the Reedy Creek Special District until we vote on the legislation. So this is clearly retaliatory, while Florida’s other special districts continue to operate essentially as before. I think it’s also important for us to say that our primary goal has always been to be able to continue doing exactly what we did there, which is investing in Florida. We are proud of the tourism industry we have created and we want to continue to provide the best possible customer experience in the future.
“We never wanted, and certainly never expected, to have to defend our business interests in federal court, especially having such a formidable relationship with the state that we have had for over 50 years. And as I mentioned during our shareholder call, we have a huge opportunity to continue investing in Florida. I noted that our plans are to invest $17 billion over the next 10 years, which the state should want us to do. We operate responsibly. We pay our fair share of taxes. We employ thousands of people and, by the way, we pay them well above the minimum wage dictated by the State of Florida. We also offer them great benefits and free education. So I’m going to end what is obviously kind of a long answer by asking a question: does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not? »
This isn’t the first time Iger has spoken out against DeSantis.
“It looks like he has decided to retaliate against us,” Iger said at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders on April 3. He also referred to DeSantis’ power struggle with Disney as an attempt “to punish a company for exercising a constitutional right.” ”
The DeSantis-backed board that oversees the theme parks plans to pass a proposal that would establish a code enforcement system, which could allow officers to issue civil penalties of up to $500 per violation per day – which is the maximum allowed by state law.
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