Minnesota taxpayers helped pay to bring Jimmy Fallon to Super Bowl LII

The taxpayer money was allocated through a state program that has drawn criticism from lawmakers.
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Minnesota taxpayers footed a nearly $267,000 bill for The Tonight Show’s Super Bowl LII broadcast in Minneapolis, reports show.

As first reported by MPR, Fallon’s 2018 performance was funded in part by the state’s Snowbate program, which uses taxpayer money to incentivize film, television, music and other entertainment to come to Minnesota. The program does this in the form of a 25 percent rebate on expenses.

Fallon’s Super Bowl special broadcast from the Orpheum Theatre, which featured stars like Justin Timberlake and The Rock, cost around $3 million total, according to MPR.

The $267,000 outlay is a fraction of the $16 million Variety estimated in 2017 that Fallon is paid to host The Tonight Show

Since coming to light, lawmakers have criticized the program and called for a look into reform. Rep. Nolan West (R-Blaine) noted the program saw a 67 percent cut in 2017, but said it still needs additional oversight.

He noted Fallon would have likely still chosen to air the show from Minneapolis given the profitability of the event. NBC had Super Bowl rights that year.

"The Super Bowl is the highest rated television show every year," West said in a statement.  "NBC would have capitalized on this by airing The Tonight Show from here regardless if a rebate program existed...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.”

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But the executive director of MN Film TV, Melodie Bahan, told the Star Tribune she thinks that the Snowbate program should be expanded in order to return Minnesota to its "cinematic glory days" in the '90s, when the likes of "The Mighty Ducks" and "Grumpy Old Men" were filmed in Minnesota.

According to a state report, 30 productions took advantage of Snowbate incentives in 2014, totaling around $1.2 million. The report states this led to an estimated $5.5 million in spending in the state and 496 jobs for Minnesotans. 

The Star Tribune notes that spending has since significantly declined, with Snowbate currently allocating $500,000 annually on a first-come, first-served basis. But this is set to change to a merit-based system under new leadership. 

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