Govs. Abbott and DeSantis sabotage the economy for political gain
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Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature on Thursday passed a bill to eliminate Walt Disney World’s self-governing status in response to the company’s opposition to the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
- Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the measure banning instruction or classroom discussion about LGBTQ issues for kindergarten through third grade into law last month. The bill’s vague language opens school districts to lawsuits if a teacher has a picture of their same-sex partner on their desk or if a student discusses their LGBTQ+ parents, for example, and could apply to students through high school.
- After originally refusing to take a public stance on the bill—and facing backlash for the company’s donations to anti-LGBTQ+ legislators—Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out against it during a shareholder meeting and reportedly called DeSantis to express “disappointment and concern” over the effects the bill could have.
Gov. DeSantis and the Republican legislature retaliated by passing a law to dissolve Walt Disney World’s special tax district. Known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), the 36 square mile area sits on the outer limits of Orange and Osceola counties in central Florida and contains two municipalities: Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista. As the primary landowner of RCID, Walt Disney World is solely responsible for paying the cost of municipal services like power, water, roads, and fire protection.
Once the bill dissolving RCID is signed into law, however, taxpayers in Orange and Osceola counties will be forced to assume the $1 billion debt of the RCID.
“So this is not supposition, this is not conjecture, this is Florida law that says those 1.7 million people are going to have to pick up this bill,” Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, said. Framer estimates that Orange and Osceola households could face roughly $2,200 more in property tax in order to cover the debt. The median per capita income in Orange county is $31,409 and in Osceola County is $24,146.
“If we had to take over the first response and public safety components for Reedy Creek with no new revenue, that would be catastrophic for our budget in Orange County. It would put an undue burden on the rest of the taxpayers in Orange County, to fill that gap,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said on Thursday.
The same day as DeSantis and the legislature condemned 1.7 million Florida residents to shoulder RCID’s debt, the governor told a crowd of supporters that he is “concerned and worried about Biden plunging us into a recession.”
“It’s killing people across the board to have to pay so much for gasoline, have to pay so much for bills, have to pay so much for food,” DeSantis said. “This is a real problem, and I think the fear is, what, they’re [the Democrats] going to do monetary policy, some of this other stuff is going to put a real hamper on the economy potentially.”
Republicans across the country have spent weeks slamming Democrats over rising inflation and the worsening supply chain crisis. Yet, one Republican governor in particular seems hellbent on manufacturing these crises himself.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott created multi-mile traffic jams at numerous U.S. border crossings last week in order to inspect commercial trucks and other vehicles in the name of stopping illegal immigration. The trucks, many carrying produce, household goods, and auto supplies, were already stopped and inspected by Customs and Border Protection agents. Despite this, Abbott ordered Texas state troopers to detain and search vehicles for contraband or undocumented immigrants.
The border standoff ended after nine days, with Abbott reaching agreements with the governors of four Mexican states to increase security protocols in Mexico. The entire debacle, snarling supply lines to grocery stores and manufacturers across the country, cost about $1 billion a day in cross-border trade to the United States and $470 million a day to Texas.
In all, it will cost the equivalent of 77,000 job years for the country and 36,300 for Texas’ economy, Perryman said. A job year is considered to be one person working for a year, though [Texas economist Ray] Perryman said, in this case, it’s primarily multiple people working for shorter periods.
For the U.S. as a whole, that’s about $9 billion in lost gross domestic product, Perryman estimated.
In the middle of this self-created crisis, Abbott complained on Twitter that “almost all the inflation that Americans are struggling with arose under Biden.”
Further reading: “What did Greg Abbott’s border inspections turn up? Oil leaks, flat tires and zero drugs,” Texas Tribune.