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Should New York use tax credits to woo Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show?
The up-and-coming late-night funnyman is poised to get a huge financial incentive to stay in NYC... if he replaces Jay Leno
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo must be a really big Fallon fan.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo must be a really big Fallon fan. Jason Kempin/Getty Images/Spencer Platt/Getty Images

"From Studio 6B in Rockefeller Center, New York presents a provision in its tentative state budget to keep Jimmy Fallon around as host of The Tonight Show!"

Okay, so that's not how Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented it. But that's the gist of what's happening. Indeed, the New York Daily News has learned of a weirdly specific proposed tax credit in the state budget for "a talk or variety program that filmed at least five seasons outside the state prior to its first relocated season in New York," with the requirement that it films in front of a studio audience of at least 200 people and has "an annual production budget of at least $30 million."

Paired with the rumor that NBC is planning to name Fallon as Jay Leno's successor in 2014, it certainly looks like a "Jimmy Fallon tax credit," as the Daily News calls it. According to the New York Times, Cuomo has denied that the tax credit — which equals 30 percent of production costs — was written specifically for The Tonight Show, but instead is "simply an effort to expand the existing tax break."

The Hollywood Reporter's Jordan Zakarin explains:

[T]he state already gives tax credits to shows and films being made in New York, but as of now, they have to have started up in the state -- think 30 Rock, Girls, or The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is slated to become the largest film ever produced in the city. The tweak in the new budget would make credits available to a show that was coming from out of state, and Tonight has been based in California since 1972. [The Hollywood Reporter]

While NBC has confirmed that it's building a new studio in New York for Fallon, the network has remained mum over whether it's planning to move The Tonight Show there, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As for why New York would want to keep Fallon and his Neil Young impression in the city, the state claims that "since 2004 the New York State Film Production Credit program has attracted 665 film and television projects, generating $10.1 billion in economic activity for New York state." Earlier this month, however, the The Syracuse Post-Standard questioned "the wisdom of giving taxpayer money to finance shows that probably would not have left New York," pointing out that an institution like Saturday Night Live wouldn't leave New York City anyway. So why give it a tax break?

State Sen. Michael Gianaris defended the program to the Post-Standard, claiming that if these tax credits "did not exist, New York would stand to lose thousands of jobs and billions of dollars."

No word yet if California is putting together a tax credit for when NBC inevitably changes its mind, fires Jimmy Fallon after an all-too-brief Tonight Show tenure, and puts Jay Leno back on the air in Burbank.

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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