During the Q&A section of today’s Q2 Earnings Call with Disney, Bob Iger took a moment to comment on the current state of the situation with the Florida Government. While The Walt Disney Company CEO didn’t comment directly on the lawsuit, he did clarify a few points about the circumstances of the special district that he felt were necessary. Read the full comment here:
“Regarding Florida, I have got a few things I want to say about that, Phil. First of all, I think the case that we filed last month made our position and the facts very clear and that is really that this is about one thing and one thing only and that is retaliating against us for taking a position about pending legislation. And we believe that in us taking that position, we are merely exercising our right to free speech. Also, this is not about special privileges or a level playing field or Disney in any way using its leverage around the state of Florida. But since there’s been a lot said about special districts and the arrangement that we have, I want to set the record straight on that too.“
“There are about 2000 special districts in Florida. Most are established to foster investor development where we were one of them. He basically made it easier for us and others, by the way, to do business in Florida and we built the business that employs as we said before, over 75,000 people, and attracts tens of millions of people to the state. So while it is easy to say that the Reedy Creek special district that was established for us over 50 years ago benefited us, it is misleading to not also consider how much Disney benefited the state of Florida. And we are also; we are not the only company operating a special district. I mentioned 2000 for the Daytona Speedway; it has one. So do the villages, which is a permanent retirement community and there are countless others. So the goal here is, if the goal is leveling the playing field in the uniform application of the law or government oversight of special districts needs to occur or be applied to all special districts. There’s also a false narrative that we have been fighting to protect tax breaks as part of this. But in fact, we are the largest taxpayer in Central Florida, paying over 1.1 billion in state and local taxes last year alone. We pay more taxes, specifically more real estate taxes, as a result of that special district. And we all know there was no concerted effort to do anything to dismantle what was once called Reedy Creek special district until we spoke out in the legislation. So this is plainly a matter of retaliation while the rest of the Florida special districts continue operating basically as they were.”
“I think it’s also important for us to say our primary goal has always been to be able to continue to do exactly what we have been doing their, which is investing in Florida. We are proud of the tourism industry that we created, and we want to continue delivering the best possible experience for guests going forward. We never wanted and we certainly never expected to be in the position of having to defend our business interests in federal court, particularly having such a terrific relationship with the state as we have had for more than 50 years.”
“And as I mentioned on our shareholder call we have a huge opportunity to continue to invest in Florida. I noted that our plans are to invest 17 billion over the next 10 years, which is what 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 above the minimum wage substantially above the minimum wage dictated by the state of Florida. We also provide them with great benefits and free education, so I’m gonna finish what is obviously kind of a long answer by asking one question. Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?”
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.