Mike Pence Says DeSantis Went Too Far in Revoking Disney’s Special Tax Status

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In a Wednesday appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box, former vice president Mike Pence argued that Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s support of a law that stripped Disney of its special tax status was a departure from his preferred vision of limited government.

Disney drew DeSantis’s ire after it complained about the 2022 Parental Rights in Education Act, which prohibits the discussion and instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools.

When asked to weigh in by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Pence first clarified that he “fully supported Florida’s initiative to protect kids and protect parental rights.”

“I was just in Iowa last week where literally there’s a school — the Linn-Mar Community School — [that] will allow a student to get a gender transition plan without parental notification or approval,” the former vice president offered by way of comparison.

However, Pence, who is a potential 2024 presidential candidate, disagreed with DeSantis’s legal attacks against Disney.

“I have concerns about the follow-on. Disney stepped into the fray, they lost,” explained Pence. “The idea of going after their taxing authority. That was beyond the scope of what I as a conservative, a limited government Republican, would be prepared to do.”

The conflict was initiated by Disney’s decision to release a statement saying the Florida act “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.” The company also suspended political donations in Florida in response to the parental rights law.

DeSantis soon responded by signing legislation last April that stripped Disney of its 50-year-old “independent special district” status. The Reedy Creek Improvement District, an autonomous area that accommodates the famous Walt Disney World theme park, would be dissolved.

However, the massive tax implications of this move soon came to light. The dissolution would force taxpayers in Orange and Osceola counties to begin paying for the firefighting, police, and road maintenance services that Disney had been paying. They would also have to cover the Disney tax district’s debt of around $1 billion.

Florida legislators changed course earlier this month and compromised, allowing Disney to keep its special tax district status. Instead, the governor would gain the power to name the members of the tax district’s controlling board.

Nikki Fried, a Democrat who served one term as the state’s agriculture commissioner, told HuffPost that the latest development “shows once again it was not about the governance of Reedy Creek. It was about punishing a corporation that spoke out.”

Meanwhile, DeSantis portrayed the legislation earlier this month as a victory, explaining at a press conference that “Disney is gonna pay its fair share of taxes and Disney is gonna honor the debt.”

“This is obviously now going to be controlled by the state of Florida,” said DeSantis. “So there’s a new sheriff in town.”

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