• The governor said the board may consider selling Disney World utilities to a private entity
  • DeSantis said he's not allowing Disney to 'have its own government'
  • The Republican previously floated the possibility of hiking Disney's taxes

Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., has floated the possibility of turning the land near special tax district Walt Disney World into a rival theme park, a state park, or a state prison as the governor continues to tighten the state's grip on Disney's special privileges in self-governing.

"People have said maybe create a state park, try to do more amusement parks. Someone said another state prison. Who knows? The possibilities are endless," DeSantis said during a press conference Monday in Lake Buena Vista Monday, NBC News reported.

Aside from the possibility of turning 40 square miles of land that borders Disney into a state prison, DeSantis also said that the board he appointed as an overseer of the district's land may look at the possibility of selling utilities within the district to a private group.

Also in the media briefing, DeSantis unveiled a new bill that could limit the actions of the entertainment giant undermining the authority of the oversight board. "My mantra was, you're not gonna have Disney have its own government in central Florida. They're gonna live under the same laws as everybody else, pay their fair share of taxes and honor the debts that they've accumulated over the years," the Florida governor said as per WTSP.

DeSantis further added that the proposed legislation, which is expected to be introduced next week, would impose inspection guidelines on Disney's rides and monorail, according to Business Insider.

The proposed bill would also invalidate a land development agreement that gave Disney the authority to have broad control over the park and its property. The agreement, which was passed by the former board of directors for Disney's special governing district, allowed the entertainment company to plan and develop in the area. DeSantis said the agreement may be invalidated by the new board next week.

The deal includes an option for Disney to add another major theme park, two minor parks, around 14,000 hotel rooms, and 1 million square feet of retail space within a span of 10 years, as per Reuters.

Tensions rose between DeSantis and Disney after the latter opposed the state's Parental Rights in Education Act that prohibits classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation.

After the company's opposition, the DeSantis government moved to eliminate Disney's virtual autonomy in the district, which Disney CEO Bob Iger referred to as a move that appeared "to retaliate against us." Iger said the governor's "efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida."

In February, the outgoing District oversight board "quietly" approved the land development agreement with Disney, days before DeSantis appointed a new board, CNN reported.

The development agreement "essentially makes Disney the government," said board member Ron Peri, as per a video posted by an Orlando TV station, according to CNN.

DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said the governor's office was "aware of Disney's last-ditch efforts to execute contracts just before ratifying the new law that transfers rights and authorities from the former Reedy Creek Improvement District to Disney."

Fenske added that an initial review of the pact indicated there were "significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law."

Disney said in a statement to CNN that all of its signed agreements with the District were "appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida's Government in the Sunshine law."

Earlier last month, DeSantis also threatened to raise Disney hotel taxes and the possibility of imposing tolls on roads that lead to the company's theme parks, the New York Times reported.

Company financials showed that Disney paid and collected a total of $1.2 billion in state and local taxes last year. The entertainment giant's Disney World, a 25,000-acre resort in the southern part of Orlando that was turned into a district in 1967, employs around 75,000 people and has "unusual" control over various aspects of the property such as road maintenance, fire protection and development planning.

Some observers said DeSantis' fierce fight against Disney may appear "more like a tussle designed to heighten his own political ambitions," according to the New York Times. The Republican, who is deemed a likely presidential candidate in 2024, said his actions against the company were "the people's will."

New Florida board seeks power over Walt Disney World cities
Gov. DeSantis has engaged in a months-long war with Disney, but this time, he wants to make use of the land that borders the district. Reuters