Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is heralded as the future of Trumpism without Trump. To put it another way, DeSantis has a reputation as a competent version of the bumbling Trump, who kept blowing opportunities with his massive egotism.
DeSantis certainly has Trump’s flair for authoritarianism and bullying. But he also shares another characteristic with Trump: his incompetence.
DeSantis’ war against Disney is the latest example of his amateurish antics that promise to blow up in his face. DeSantis thinks he’s oh-so-clever punishing the entertainment giant for its objection to Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law. (He also thinks it helps his presidential prospects.)
The law passed by the Florida legislature strips Disney of its self-governing rights, which basically allows it to run its operations like its own government, with all the tax advantages. Dissolving the special tax district means that Disney’s Florida operations would be subject to other municipalities, with all the tax consequences that go with the change.
At least, that was what DeSantis thought he was doing. It turns out, that was just wishful thinking on the governor’s part.
For one thing, the change would saddle local taxpayers with a huge tax bill. Disney used to pay for a lot of services itself, but now Orange and Osceola Counties, where Disney World is located, would have to foot the bill itself. That means a jump in local property taxes of somewhere around 20 to 25 percent, which won’t sit well with homeowners.
DeSantis may not care that much about a handful of homeowners, because he’s not paying the bill. But there’s a bigger bill that the state would be on the hook for. Disney issued bonds worth more than $1 billion. If the Disney self-governing district is dissolved, the state is on the hook for the bonds.
Disney hasn’t been shy about reminding Florida of the bill it will have to pick up. Meanwhile, bond rating companies have been warning Florida that the state is jeopardizing all of the state’s bond ratings because of its Disney antics. Lower bond ratings mean the state will have to pay out more on its bonds.
DeSantis wants people to believe that this is all part of some grand master plan. “We’re going to take care of all that. Don’t worry. We have everything thought out,” he said when he signed the anti-Disney measure into law.
But clearly, he didn’t.
Maybe DeSantis doesn’t care. The whole point of Trumpism is intimidation and cruelty. The fallout is beside the point. If people have to pay more taxes, that’s worth it. If it ruins the state’s bond ratings, so be it.
And if it tanks the state’s tourism industry, who cares? Meanwhile, other states look upon DeSantis as their best marketing tool. In an editorial, the Las Vegas Sun praised DeSantis for his strategy.
“We…send a whole-hearted thank-you to DeSantis and Florida Republicans for what is likely to be their multibillion-dollar gift to Las Vegas, paid for on the backs of Florida taxpayers,” the paper said.