MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Gov. Jim Douglas will meet privately with President Barack Obama on Monday to discuss the economic stimulus package now under consideration in the Senate, a top Douglas aide said Sunday evening.

Douglas’ deputy chief of staff, Dennise Casey, said the Republican governor and Democratic president are set to meet at 11 a.m. Monday in the Oval Office to talk over a package of spending and tax cuts which Douglas supports and which most Republicans in Congress don’t.

Douglas is vice chairman of the National Governors’ Association and has been leading the effort to show states’ support for a stimulus package expected to top $800 billion.

He could emerge as a key Obama ally as he tries to cajole his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill to support the package.

The House passed an $819 billion package on Wednesday with no GOP votes in support. A Senate version approaches $900 billion, but is continuing to draw criticism from Republicans as being too heavy on spending and not heavy enough with tax cuts.

“The governor is feeling very grateful for the opportunity to meet with the President and convey his thoughts on behalf of his colleagues in the NGA,” Casey said Sunday evening. “He wants to emphasize state flexibility,” in spending the influx of federal money, “as well as the importance of passing this package,” she added.

The meeting could mean limelight for the small-state governor.

A schedule issued by the White House press office indicates media cameras will be allowed into the beginning of the session, and that it’s the only item on the president’s schedule for Monday the media are invited to cover.

Douglas also is to meet with members of Vermont’s congressional delegation and with senators of both parties as he tries to help drum up support for the stimulus package.

The stakes are huge for Vermont – as well as for most other states. Much of the money in both the House and Senate versions of the stimulus would flow through cash-strapped state governments.

By one estimate, the version passed last week by the House could shrink Vermont’s projected budget deficit for the next fiscal year from $201 million to $30 million.

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