ST. PAUL – After learning state taxpayers spent nearly $267,000 on bringing “The Tonight Show” to Minneapolis during Super Bowl week – when the show almost certainly would have produced a show in Minnesota with no taxpayer involvement – State Representative Nolan West (R-Blaine) is calling on House DFL leadership to hold hearings into Minnesota’s Snowbate program.
“This is a textbook definition of government waste, and the reason why Republicans cut the Snowbate program by 67% in 2017,” West said. “Taxpayers expect us to spend their money wisely and this debacle falls far short of that standard.”
Snowbate is a rebate incentive program designed to help entice and encourage film and television production in Minnesota.
A recent MPR report highlighted that “The Tonight Show” received a nearly $267,000 rebate through the Snowbate program. It noted that the program didn’t originally qualify for the rebate according to Minnesota state law because it was a “talk show.” But once the program classification was changed to a “variety show,” it was able to dodge the Minnesota statute.
The NBC network, which airs “The Tonight Show,” broadcast Super Bowl LII from Minneapolis. When NBC last had network rights to a Super Bowl in 2015, the game was held in Phoenix, Arizona. The report noted that “The Tonight Show” also broadcast a show from Phoenix that evening, despite the fact that Arizona didn't have an active TV and film industry tax incentive program.
Rep. West said its clear the Snowbate program needs additional oversight.
“The Super Bowl is the highest rated television show every year,” West said. “NBC would have capitalized on this by airing The Tonight Show from here regardless if a rebate program existed.”
“Like them or not, these funds are supposed to be used to bring productions to Minnesota that normally wouldn’t have considered our state as a filming location,” West continued. “I’m hopeful that House Democrats will hold a hearing on Snowbate so we can discuss adding more program guardrails to ensure this wasteful spending doesn’t happen again.”