May 2, 2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis has vowed “to win on every single issue involving Disney.” One crucial way he can do so is to oppose any pending legislation in the Florida Legislature that would provide it and other large companies an unfair marketplace advantage.
For example, a pair of bills that the legislature is expected to vote on in the coming days, House Bill 677 and Senate Bill 564, would create onerous reporting requirements on Main Street. This would put millions of dollars into Disney’s corporate coffers every year, but it would do so at the expense of Florida’s consumers and small businesses.
HB 677 and SB 564 target a part of the electronic payment system known as interchange, which is the cost businesses pay to accept credit and debit cards. These proposals would prohibit electronic payment costs from including specific state and local sales taxes.
Currently, Florida businesses’ credit card payments are processed in full as one lump transaction, which includes the interchange fee and all the relevant local and state taxes the business must pay on the sale. Big Florida companies want to use the force of government to change this set-up so that the taxes are calculated separately.
HB 677 and SB 564 assume that every business has the software needed to separate tax amounts from sales — or that they can afford the extra fees that will come as a result of banks doing it for them — when only the big ones like Disney do.
If the bills pass, Florida’s small business owners — who currently don’t even have to think about it when processing credit transactions — would have to spend their time and resources calculating, determining and remitting their tax information for all electronic payments. This onerous task would cost them significantly, and consumer benefits and transaction security would decline as a result.
The only thing consumers will get for trading in their benefits and security is the opportunity to watch Disney grow in size and scope. In fact, one expert told the Florida Legislature that “on ticket sales alone,” the company would make an extra half a million dollars a month if HB 677 and SB 564 ever went into effect.
That’s why a coalition of over a dozen nonprofits, consumer groups and advocacy organizations, including the James Madison Institute (Florida’s leading think tank) and Americans for Tax Reform (a top Washington, D.C., think tank) sent a letter to the Florida Legislature urging it to reject this legislation, which they wrote risks creating “higher costs for Floridians in a time of out-of-control inflation.”
With a net worth of over $108 billion, Disney is currently the 53rd wealthiest company on the Fortune 500 list, and its revenue for the first quarter of 2023 grew by an impressive 8%. The last thing the company needs is another bailout from the statehouse.
Rather than interfering with free enterprise in a misguided attempt to protect the state’s small businesses, Florida’s elected officials should stick with what’s proven to work time and time again — namely, lowering taxes and regulatory barriers. That’s what Main Street has asked for repeatedly, and it knows what’s better for itself than Disney does.
It’s long past time for the statehouse to stop these crony corporate shell games. Here’s hoping our lawmakers make the right decision with a little push from the governor.
Edward Woodson is a Florida-based lawyer and political commentator who hosts “The Edward Woodson Show,” which airs weekdays on WZAB and streams online at EdwardWoodson.com.