The Minnesota Film and TV board announced new guidelines for Minnesota’s “Snowbate,” which offers tax rebates to subsidize film and television production in the state. One lawmaker called the program a waste of taxpayer money.
The updated rules prohibit projects based on national events or political candidates, Minnesota Film and TV executive director Melodie Bahan told The Center Square.
Bahan said the guidelines are meant to boost long-term projects that employ in-state workers, rules she started crafting in 2017.
Bahan said projects will be evaluated once a month instead of first-come, first-served, so they can “best fulfill the goals of the program under its statute: job creation and economic development.
“First and most important is our desire to be responsible stewards of this taxpayer money that we have been given, so we want to make sure that those dollars are being invested wisely in projects that fulfill the goals of the program,” Bahan said.
The new system will prioritize grants based on factors such as the total amount spent in Minnesota, the number of local hires, and the production length.
Bahan said that the“Tonight Show” employed more than 150 people in Minnesota and spent a total of $3 million, but was a one-time deal – prohibited under new rules.
Bahan said they plan to work with less-experienced filmmakers to ensure an excellent finish and compliance with state law and IRS guidelines.
The rules require projects certified for “Snowbate” to better document their 25 percent of their Minnesota expenses returned by rebate.
Other changes will require applicants to have policies against harassment and discrimination, permit site visits, and more clearly details rebate-eligible spending.
Rep. Nolan West, R-Blaine questioned that use of taxpayer money.
“I’m pleased with the new guidelines, as common sense would tell you not to spend taxpayer dollars on projects centered on national events taking place in Minnesota or on local political candidates,” West told MPR. “It’s unfortunate we had to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on productions that were going to film here regardless before the standards were changed.”