Florida Descends Into Darkness

When I talked about the economic consequences of “Don’t Say Gay,” I must confess this wasn’t what I had in mind, but here we are (WaPo).

The Republican-led Florida legislature on Thursday passed a bill to cancel the special tax district of Walt Disney World in the state, a decision with billion-dollar implications for the company and the communities that surround the theme park.

Earlier this week, the governor issued a proclamation calling for the repeal of a 1967 deal that allowed the company to become its own local government on the 40-square-mile property that Walt Disney bought earlier that decade. The Reedy Creek Improvement District allows Disney to bypass local building ordinances and some other rules, and also made it responsible for public services such as fire and rescue, sewage treatment, and road maintenance.

But local officials say if they are forced to take over the public services done by Disney, such as road maintenance, they will instead have to raise property taxes. Disney has an estimated $1 billion in debt obligations, along with the more than $160 million a year spent on public services, which would shift to local governments when Reedy Creek is officially dissolved next year.

“If we had to take over the first response, the public safety components for Reedy Creek with no new revenue, that would be catastrophic for our budget here within Orange County,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said. “It would put an undue burden on the rest of the taxpayers in Orange County to fill that gap.”

Before anyone tries to divert the discussion to special tax districts (which, unlike Reedy Creek, are usually undisputed tax giveaways to various corporations), Florida Republicans have made it abundantly clear that this isn’t about local government reform … at all (Tim Carney).

Newsmax host Eric Bolling: “Is there an opportunity for Disney to change their mind and say we will disregard this whole ‘woke’ agenda … and would the governor then say, ‘fine, you can keep your status but we’re gonna keep an eye on you now’?”

Florida Lt. Gov: “Sure!”

In fact, today’s Republicans in Florida are literally validating the fears of warnings of yesterday’s Republicans regarding the dangers of governments using tax law to control people’s behavior – except that the current GOP version is all-in on the tyranny if it wins them their culture wars.

Not that this is the only example, as Karen Duncan explained on this very site.

The parents’ rights movement that recently sprung up, supposedly composed of local parents angry about school closings and mask mandates, turned out to be a sophisticated, well-funded national far-right-wing movement. And once in charge of school boards their emphasis rapidly shifted from masks and mandates to going after books with political points of view they disliked regardless of whether all the other local parents agreed with them.

And once these groups got a toehold on school boards, they became emboldened to push for outright censorship beyond schools and in public libraries, now trying to dictate even what adults can seek on the shelves. As this article from the Washington Post describes, in counties across Texas, like this one in Llano County, local politicians are dissolving library boards, appointing conservative Christians in the place of experienced librarians, and are removing books from shelves even in the adult sections.

What makes this different, as it were, is that Republicans in Florida and elsewhere are unequivocally ending any pretense that they care about limiting government even in the economical realm (not that this would surprise those who have followed this space). Republicans are simply acknowledging the truth that has been clear since the Trump Administration: they are no longer interested in freer markets. Economic liberty has joined personal liberty as obstacles to their ambitions.

It is yet another reason they cannot be trusted with power anywhere.

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