Disney CEO Criticizes Florida Governor’s Political Moves

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Disney CEO Bob Iger has voiced his criticism of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ recent political moves during the company’s Q2 earnings call. The issue arose when a shareholder inquired about Disney’s parks in Florida and the ongoing political disputes with the governor.

Iger began by addressing a bill and a case filed by Disney the previous month, asserting that their position was solely about expressing their right to free speech regarding pending legislation. He clarified that the company’s stance was not driven by a desire for special privileges or leveraging their influence in the state.

Responding to discussions about special districts, Iger set the record straight, explaining that there are approximately 2,000 special districts in Florida, many of which were established to promote investment and development. Disney, like numerous other companies, benefited from the arrangement, which facilitated business operations in the state. Over the years, Disney has created a thriving business that employs over 75,000 individuals and attracts millions of visitors to Florida. Iger emphasized the need for comprehensive government oversight of all special districts if the goal is a level playing field and the uniform application of the law.

Furthermore, Iger addressed misconceptions about tax breaks, stating that Disney is the largest taxpayer in Central Florida, having paid over $1 billion in state and local taxes in the previous year alone. The company contributes a significant amount in real estate taxes due to the special district, and there had been no previous effort to dismantle it until Disney spoke out against the legislation. Iger emphasized that the current situation appeared to be an act of retaliation, as other special districts in Florida continue to operate without disruption.

Disney’s primary objective has always been to continue investing in Florida and providing the best possible experience for guests. Iger expressed pride in the tourism industry they have built and reiterated their commitment to responsible operations, fair taxation, and the well-being of their employees. Disney pays its employees above the minimum wage set by the state of Florida, offers excellent benefits, and supports their education. Iger concluded by questioning whether the state wants Disney to further invest, employ more people, and contribute more taxes or not.

This is not the first time Iger has spoken out against Governor DeSantis. During the company’s annual shareholders meeting in April, he accused DeSantis of retaliating against Disney and attempting to punish the company for exercising its constitutional rights.

The DeSantis-backed board overseeing theme parks in Florida is considering a proposal to establish a code enforcement system that would enable officers to impose civil penalties of up to $500 per infraction per day, as permitted by state law.