Celebrity lobbyist: Andrew Zimmern pushes for 'snowbate' at Capitol

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Andrew Zimmern, the popular celebrity chef and food writer, was making the rounds at the State Capitol Wednesday – not to serve gourmet foods to lawmakers, but to encourage them to save the "Snowbate" tax credit program for movie and television production companies, according to WCCO.

Zimmern, who lives in St. Paul, met with legislators and took selfies with several of them, all while singing the praises of the Minnesota TV and Film Board, which works with producers who are considering doing work in the state.

Funding for the film board and the Snowbate tax incentives is $10 million in the current two-year budget, but the House wants to eliminate that funding moving forward.

"Snowbate is massively important," said Zimmern, according to KARE 11. "It is a relatively small amount of money but the trickle-down effect is massive."

Zimmern said Minnesota can use the incentive program to encourage more digital production, which he notes is becoming a much bigger part of the entertainment business.

Opponents of the Snowbate program, like Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, say the money isn't a good investment.

“We’re not sure that the best way to create jobs is by providing tax incentives to Hollywood producers and film stars,” Garofalo said, according to WCCO.

Minnesota was one of the first states to offer incentives to movie producers in the 1990s, and they were instrumental in luring a string of popular movies to the state, such as "Grumpy Old Men" and "Fargo."

But the program has had an up-and-down existence since then, and Minnesota now faces competition from many other states that have beefed up their incentive programs, according to KARE 11.

While the House proposed zeroing out the program, the Senate's budget bill includes $13 million for it. The differences will need to be worked out in a conference committee.

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