During the 2022 legislative session Florida Republicans took actions that distanced themselves from some of Florida’s biggest corporations – Governor DeSantis took on Disney, and the Florida Legislature let a corporate income tax break expire.
The publisher of Floridapolitics.com, Peter Schorsch, tweeted that corporations “got (royally) screwed during Session.” This assessment goes against the traditional narrative that corporate political donations pad Republican campaign accounts and tax breaks and lax regulation follow.
The most public rebuke of corporate interests was on display during the controversy between Governor DeSantis and Disney CEO Bob Chapek as related to the Parental Rights in Education legislation. The controversy made headlines across the U.S. and put the two powerful executives in a very public battle.
A day after Chapek publicly condemned the bill that would ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity before fourth grade, DeSantis ripped Disney before a roomful of supporters. He called Disney a “Woke corporation” and criticized its business interests in China.”
But Chapek should not have been surprised by DeSantis’ response.
Last summer DeSantis noted that “if you are in one of these corporations, if you’re a Woke CEO, you want to get involved in our legislative business, look, it’s a free country. … But understand, if you do that, I’m fighting back against you. And I’m going to make sure that people understand your business practices, and anything I don’t like about what you’re doing.”
Following the Disney dust-up, on Friday March 11th, Chepak said that Disney would pause to reevaluate its political campaign contribution policy.
Ironically, on March 12, a Senate bill that would have saved Florida corporations $1.2 billion was “Indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration.”
The corporate income tax became an issue when the rate fell from 5.5 percent to 4.458 percent in 2019 and 2020 and all the way down to 3.535 percent in 2021. But as of Jan. 1 of this year the rate is back up to 5.5 percent.
Politico reported that organizations that represent the state’s business community pushed during the 2022 session to keep the corporate income tax rate as it had been the past three years. They said to ignore this would mean that Florida businesses would be hit with a $1.2 billion tax hike.”
Some say that the Republican shift away from corporate interest has been in the works for years.
Last year the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) issued a statement signaling it could pull championship events from states that altered the eligibility status of transgender athletes. However, DeSantis signed a transgender sports bill and said “If you don’t want to hold an event in my state, you know what, I got a lot of events in my state.”
Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, said that “folks who consider the GOP to be pro-business, that’s not how they have been acting.”
Schorsch noted that the corporate rift “with the GOP is not going to get better … Those folks’ politics, by and large, don’t line up with GOP values.”
– – –
Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star.
Republished with permission.