He’s the Mouse that roared.
Disney boss Bob Iger slammed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday in the escalating tit-for-tat over the special tax district that oversees the company’s Orlando theme parks.
“This is about one thing and one thing only: them retaliating against us,” Iger said during a call with investors after the Mouse House reporting second-quarter earnings in line with Wall Street estimates.
“Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, pay more taxes or not?”
Disney and DeSantis have been at loggerheads since the likely Republican nominee for president pushed through the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans teachers from talking about sexual orientation and gender for all public school students.
Disney’s opposition to the law led DeSantis to strip the company of its special Reedy Creek tax district, leading to lawsuits and countersuits in recent months.
“There’s also a false narrative that we’ve been fighting to protect tax breaks as part of this,” Iger railed. “But in fact, we’re the largest taxpayer in Central Florida paying over $1.1 billion in state and local taxes last year alone.”
The CEO poked holes in DeSantis’ claim that Disney has a unique situation in the Sunshine State because it occupied a special tax district, noting that other venues like the Daytona Speedway and prominent retirement community The Villages enjoy the status.
“There are about 2,000 special districts in Florida, and most were established to foster investment in development,” Iger said. “We were one of them. It basically made it easier for us, and others by the way, to do business in Florida.”
Reps for DeSantis did not immediately respond for comment.
Iger said Disney intends to spend more than $17 billion in investments at Disney World over the next decade, which would create around 13,000 jobs at the company and generate more taxes for Florida.
Disney currently employs more than 75,000 people in the area.
But those plans could be upended by the nasty dueling lawsuits over the tax district, which was created by the state in 1967 in order to help Disney develop its theme parks and resorts in the Orlando area.
In late February, DeSantis appointed new board members to oversee the district in retaliation for the entertainment giant’s public stance.
Iger reiterated past comments he made earlier this month, explaining that Disney’s stance is a matter of “free speech.”
Recently, the board members claimed their Disney-controlled predecessors pulled a fast one on them by stripping them of most of their powers before stepping aside.
DeSantis pushed to invalidate the board’s move, vowing to void the development agreement as well as to look at things like taxes on Disney’s hotels, tolls on the roads leading to the resort, developing some of the property that the district owns with rival amusement parks, and even putting a state prison next to Walt Disney World.
As a result, Disney sued DeSantis on April 26 alleging the governor rallied the Republican-controlled legislature to strike back at “woke Disney” to seize control of the administrative district.
Disney claimed DeSantis violated its protections under the US Constitution, including its First Amendment right to free speech. It is also seeking for laws created by the DeSantis’ board to be struck down.
DeSantis countersued Disney on May 2, accusing the company of striking last-minute “backroom” deals with the prior Disney-controlled board, just before the legislature changed the board structure.
The DeSantis-selected board asked the state court to void those Disney-friendly deals, which gave the company control over development in the district for decades and which limited the new board’s authority.
This story originally appeared on NYPost