(The Center Square) — A New Jersey mayor is suggesting a state agency's move to pull funding for a French museum project was in retaliation for his refusal to endorse First Lady Tammy Murphy's U.S. Senate candidacy.

On Friday, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority threatened to pull funding for the controversial Pompidou Museum project unless the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency "rectifies" a $19 million shortfall on its books.

But an outraged Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop took to social media to claim the agency’s move is retaliation for him pulling back his endorsement of Murphy’s now-suspended bid for the Democratic nomination to run for embattled Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez's seat.

The Democrat said the project was on track for state funding until he announced that he was backing Rep. Andy Kim, D-NJ, in the primary race.

"We heard zero from the state for months other than all is good except for the exact week I said I was endorsing Andy Kim," Fulop posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. "That EXACT week we all of a sudden got multiple letters from Trenton after months of silence. What changed?"

In the letter, the state development agency attributed the decision to a $19 million shortfall that "continues to pose a substantial challenge" to approving additional taxpayer dollars for the project.

"While we are eager to continue working with you on the CPxNJ project, the annual operating gap remains too significant to release any funding at this time," Tim Sullivan, the agency's CEO, wrote. "With federal funding deadlines looming and the state budget process underway, it is clear that we must meaningfully narrow this gap."

The agency gave the city until May 26 to submit updated plans that "rectifies" the operating shortfall or it will "have to consider whether it is more prudent for the state to use these funds for other fiscal priorities that the Legislature and governor might identify through the budget and federal fund process."

Jersey City officials have touted the museum project as key to revitalization efforts for the city's long-neglected downtown. Pompidou X would be a satellite of Centre Pompidou, Paris’ famed museum of modern art, and would exhibit art from the Pompidou’s collection, including artists such as Frida Kahlo, Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp, officials say.

But the $200 million museum project has drawn criticism from Republican lawmakers who called it a "circus of excess and waste" of taxpayer dollars fueled by the state's pay-to-play laws.

A review by GOP lawmakers last year found more than $33 million in taxpayer dollars will be paid to the Centre Pompidou French Arts Museum in Paris – $11 million of which is for the right to use the Pompidou name on the museum for five years.

Meanwhile, more than 30 no-bid consultants will receive an estimated $40 million for the project’s "extravagant" soft costs, the report claimed, including a food consultant, a "vertical transportation" consultant, a French legal consultant, and consultants for lighting, sound and signage.

Republicans blame the state's pay-to-play laws for allowing no-bidding vendors to make campaign contributions to the governor, lawmakers, and other officeholders backing the project.

In his statement, Fulop outlines the timeline between when he was told that the project was funded to when the state agency threatened to pull the plug, which coincides with his endorsement of Kim in the U.S. Senate race. He said he would still provide the information requested by the state for the project.

"I’ve been the mayor long enough to know that if the state wants to kill this then it is beyond my control and we will move on but let’s be clear on the timelines and actions," he added. "Overall, It would be a shame for NJ to lose it but it is beyond my control."

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