DeSantis vs. Disney has a $1B price tag for Florida. National voters, be warned

The Magic Kingdom made about $1 billion disappear in Florida on Thursday.

Amid an escalating feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Disney pulled a serious power move. The company canceled a massive office complex set for Orlando, development that was supposed to bring with it more than 2,000 high-paying jobs.


Boom. A billion dollars, evaporating into thin air. That’s the price tag now attached to DeSantis’ over-the-top, politically opportunistic war on “woke.”

Disney’s decision is a stunning economic — and psychological — blow to the state, and it’s aimed right at the governor. Coming right before next week’s expected announcement that DeSantis is running for president, the company’s public about-face stands to damage him in the eyes of voters who shrink from the idea of a governor openly attacking a business that bucked him.

Disney may not be done, either. Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman, noted in an email that, despite this dramatic pullback in the state, the company still plans $17 billion in construction at Disney World in the next decade, with a potential 13,000 jobs.

Sounds like that’s in jeopardy, though. “I hope we’re able to,” he said.

Disney had planned to build Lake Nona Town Center — including moving protesting employees from California — because the company liked Florida’s business climate and tax breaks.

No more. D’Amaro cited “changing business conditions” for the reversal.

There was plenty of warning this might happen. Last week, in a conference call, Disney’s chief executive Robert A. Iger made clear that the targeting by the DeSantis administration was risky: “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes, or not?”

All of this started when the company had the nerve to criticize Florida’s “Don’t say gay” law that bans classroom instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation. An infuriated DeSantis retaliated. He convened a special session of the Legislature and told lawmakers to dissolve the resort’s self-governing status so the state could run it.

Disney then outmaneuvered the governor by approving a deal that severely limited what the DeSantis-appointed board could do to control the 39-square-mile property. Predictably, everyone’s in court now.

But Floridians are the losers here. We’ve lost jobs and investment, and we could lose even more, all because DeSantis picked a petty fight with Disney.

Disney’s not perfect. Its special taxing district should have been revisited a long time ago. But there are ways to do that through the legislative process, and DeSantis chose not to.

No, this is about suppressing free speech. It’s about punishing political enemies using the power of the state. It’s about a nakedly ambitious, vindictive governor who can’t tolerate dissent.

We hope the rest of the country is watching.

— The Miami Herald

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