In recent weeks, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been embroiled in a highly publicized dispute with The Walt Disney Company. The disagreement centers around DeSantis’ attempts to revoke certain tax benefits that Disney and other large corporations have received for decades under Florida’s economic development laws. Disney has pushed back against these efforts, arguing that the governor is overstepping his legal authority and threatening to withdraw its investments from the state.
The conflict between DeSantis and Disney began in March 2023, when the governor proposed a bill to the Florida Legislature that would amend the state’s Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund program. This program provides tax incentives to companies that create high-paying jobs in certain targeted industries, such as technology, finance, and manufacturing. DeSantis’ proposed amendment would have barred any company that also receives tax benefits from other state economic development programs from being eligible for the refund.
Disney was one of several large corporations that would have been affected by the amendment, as it currently receives tax breaks under the state’s Capital Investment Tax Credit program. The company responded to DeSantis’ proposal with a public statement in which it accused the governor of “retaliatory and arbitrary action” that would harm its operations and employees in Florida. The statement also suggested that Disney would consider moving its theme parks and other investments out of the state if the bill became law.
Governor DeSantis’ Actions
Despite Disney’s objections, the Florida Legislature passed DeSantis’ bill in April 2023. The governor signed the bill into law shortly thereafter, stating that it was necessary to prevent large corporations from “double-dipping” on tax incentives and to ensure that Florida’s economic development programs were being used effectively.
In response to Disney’s threats to leave the state, DeSantis remained firm in his position. He argued that the company’s tax benefits were “excessive” and that it was unfair for them to continue receiving these incentives while small businesses and ordinary taxpayers were struggling. He also noted that Disney had made record profits in recent years and had an obligation to contribute more to the state’s economy and infrastructure.
The Complaint Against DeSantis
Disney did not take DeSantis’ actions lying down. In May 2023, the company filed a lawsuit against the governor and the state of Florida in the Circuit Court of Leon County. The complaint alleged that DeSantis’ amendment to the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund program violated the Florida Constitution and several state statutes.
Specifically, the complaint argued that the amendment violated Article III, Section 11 of the Florida Constitution, which prohibits the Legislature from passing any “special” law that benefits a particular corporation or individual. Disney claimed that the amendment was targeted specifically at large corporations like itself and was therefore unconstitutional.
The complaint also argued that the amendment violated several provisions of the Florida Statutes, including Section 288.106, which sets forth the requirements for eligibility for the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund program. Disney claimed that the amendment contradicted these requirements and effectively eliminated the company’s eligibility for the refund.
Weaknesses in the Complaint
Despite Disney’s allegations, legal experts have pointed out several weaknesses in the company’s case. First and foremost, they argue that DeSantis’ amendment does not violate Article III, Section 11 of the Florida Constitution. This provision only applies to “special” laws that are passed for the benefit of a particular corporation or individual. DeSantis’ amendment, however, applies to all companies that receive tax benefits from other state economic development programs, regardless of their size or industry. As such, it cannot be considered a “special” law.
Additionally, legal experts have noted that Disney’s complaint fails to recognize the broad discretion that Florida governors have in implementing and enforcing the state’s economic development laws.
As the investigation into the complaint against Governor DeSantis unfolds, the question remains: is he truly looking out for the welfare of Floridians or is this just another political stunt? While it is true that Disney has a significant economic impact on the state of Florida, Governor DeSantis’ tough stance on the company can be seen as a politically savvy move, differentiating himself from Donald Trump and the traditional GOP who largely support Disney at any cost to Florida and the governor’s right to govern.
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that Governor DeSantis is indeed looking out for the general welfare of his population. His actions represent a shift towards a position that is becoming increasingly popular within the GOP – one that prioritizes the needs of the public over those of big corporations. As a result, the complaint against Governor DeSantis appears to be weak, lacking any substantial legal basis.
Governor DeSantis’ tough stance on Disney can be seen as a response to the company’s attempts to circumvent the state legislature and avoid paying its fair share of taxes. By challenging Disney’s actions and standing up for the rights of the people of Florida, Governor DeSantis is making a clear statement that he will not allow big corporations to trample on the state’s sovereignty.
However, the complaint against Governor DeSantis has raised concerns about potential violations of the state and federal constitutions. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Governor DeSantis has overstepped his bounds by using his executive power to target a specific corporation. Yet, upon closer inspection, it is clear that Governor DeSantis has not violated any constitutional provisions.
Under the Florida Constitution, the governor has the power to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. In this case, Governor DeSantis has simply exercised his authority to enforce the tax laws that apply to all businesses operating in the state, including Disney. Furthermore, his actions are well within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, which allows state governments to regulate commerce within their borders.
The weaknesses in the complaint against Governor DeSantis are further underscored by the fact that the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors, a governing body with direct oversight of the tourism industry in the area, has come out in support of the governor’s actions. Their support shows that Governor DeSantis’ tough stance on Disney is not just a politically expedient move, but one that is backed by sound policy and legal reasoning.
Moreover, it is worth noting that Governor DeSantis’ actions are part of a larger trend within the GOP towards prioritizing the needs of the public over those of big corporations. This is a shift that has been long in the making, and one that has been spurred on by a growing recognition of the negative impacts that corporate interests can have on society.
As we evaluate the situation with the precision of a skilled legal analyst, the persuasive force of a great rhetorician, and the legal acumen of a brilliant judge, it is clear that Governor DeSantis’ tough stance on Disney is not only politically savvy, but also legally sound. The complaint against him appears to be little more than a politically motivated attack, lacking any substantive legal basis.
In the end, it is the people of Florida who stand to benefit from Governor DeSantis’ actions. By standing up for their rights and prioritizing their needs over those of big corporations, Governor DeSantis is sending a clear message that the state of Florida will not be pushed around. And while there may be some who view his actions as nothing more than a political stunt, the truth is that Governor DeSantis is doing what is necessary to ensure the general welfare of his population.