Mike Schneider and Anthony ISOGIRR – Associated Press
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL (AP) – Walt Disney World’s first private government meeting after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed law On Wednesday, officials said that the measure to eliminate it next year is still embarrassed by what the new legislation means, even though some drastic effects have begun to be felt.
A government administrator, called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, said the expansion of the solar power project could be delayed due to funding problems related to the legislation, and the district fire union expressed concern that the dissolution could mean lifelong benefits for members.
After the meeting, Donald Greer, who has been a member of the Reed Creek Supervisory Board since 1975, said the board could not give clear answers to these questions because “we don’t know where we’re going.”
“The district can get an answer as soon as we find out what it means, but I don’t know if anyone knows what it means. I don’t think anyone deciphered it, “Greer said.
The dissolution measure was quickly passed in the Republican-controlled State House without a public study of its impact and was hastily signed by DeSantis. The move comes as an attempt by the Republican Party to punish Disney for opposing another new law banning instructions on gender identity and sexual orientation in elementary school, which critics call “Don’t say gay.”
For the governor the hostility was the last front in Fr. cultural war he pursued policies concerning race, gender and coronavirus, battles that DeSantis used to become one of the most popular Republicans in the country and a likely presidential candidate in 2024.
The day before DeSantis signed the bill, the Reed Creek improvement district sent investors a statement stating that it would continue its financial operations as usual. The county wrote that the agreement with the state prohibits Florida from limiting or altering the district’s ability to collect taxes or meet its bond obligations.
Critics of the dissolution bill warn that taxpayers in neighboring counties could end up taking on about $ 1 billion in debt from the district. DeSantis dismissed those concerns and said an additional law would be drafted to clarify the future of such special areas in the state.
At a meeting in Reedy Creek on Wednesday, district administrator John Klass said the developer was facing problems funding the planned expansion of the solar energy program, which means it could be postponed.
John Sheare, head of the Reedy Creek Firefighters Union, which makes up about half of the private government’s 400 employees, asked leaders to give assurances to their members that their jobs and benefits would be preserved as they were kept in the dark about what the effect would be. Firefighters, especially retirees, are concerned about the loss of guaranteed lifetime health insurance, he said.
“We have been told to remain silent, not to talk to the media, not to deal with current events,” Shiri told the leaders. “We were told that the district administration would tell it. They will be the ones posting the message. I ask you, “What’s this message?”
Supervisors did not respond, and in fact spent little time on legislation that poses an existential threat to the 55-year-old Reedy Creek neighborhood. Classe told executives that its employees will continue to work with the same “high standards and professionalism they have always done when we learn what this legally means”.
Proponents of dissolving Reedy Creek argue that it eliminates the unjust advantage of the entertainment giant over other theme parks, including allowing it to issue bonds and set its own zoning standards.
At Monday’s event, the governor assured a joyful crowd that Disney bond debts would not be dumped on taxpayers.
“Under no circumstances will Disney be able to pay its debts, we’ll see,” DeSantis said.
Credit rating agency Fitch Ratings has put Reed Creek on a “negative observation” list, suggesting that private government ratings may remain the same or potentially downgraded. Lowering the rating would complicate loans for Reedy Creek.
Another rating agency, S&P Global Ratings, said among the unanswered questions in the new law was whether Reedy Creek would resume after its dissolution next year, as utilities and debt would be transferred to neighboring governments, if any. will also come as neighboring governments raise taxes to secure Reed Creek’s debt.
By law, Reedy Creek will expire by June 2023. The lack of public response from Reedy Creek leaders on the new law could be due to fears that “the governor will find their statements hostile and this will complicate the situation,” said Shira, who said he was optimistic lawmakers would take care of district rescuers.
“We have 14 months and a lot can change between that and time,” Shire said.
Isogire reported from Tallahassee, Florida
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