— Sharp disagreements about just what it would mean for Indiana businesses and workers punctuate the debate about whether the state should enact a "right to work" law that allows employees to opt out of paying union dues.

According to a study released last month by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, new job opportunities and a higher per-capita income would result if Indiana were to become the 23rd state to pass such a law.

But according to a study cited by the Indiana State AFL-CIO, a right-to-work law would cut pay for the average worker by $5,500 per year — a total of $17.3 billion statewide.

The two sides have disputed each others' claims for weeks, and that conflict was on display Monday as the House Labor Committee approved a right-to-work bill on a party-line vote, with all Republicans voting yes.

But it is not yet clear how broad support for the bill is within the full House Republican caucus.

Republican Rep. Mark Messmer runs a business — Messmer Mechanical Inc. in his hometown of Jasper — that is a union shop.

He said the measure "could be viewed as an anti-union bill" and said he probably will vote against it out of consideration for his employees.

Rep. Ron Bacon, R-Chandler, said he opposes the bill because his district is "union-heavy" with mine workers and electrical engineers groups.

"We have extremely good relations with our labor unions," he said.

"It has evolved very well in the last 35 years that I've been there, and I don't see that, for my district, it's going to be a help."

But Rep. Sue Ellspermann, R-Ferdinand, said she has lived in four states — two with right-to-work laws, two without — and has learned that allowing workers to choose whether they join unions does more to foster job creation.

Gov. Mitch Daniels rescinded collective bargaining rights for state employees in 2005, during his first week in office, because, he said, those rights stood in the way of his ability to reshape state government.

But he is not on board with Indiana enacting a right-to-work law.

In December, Daniels said he understands the arguments business groups are advancing, but that the issue has not been properly vetted by Hoosiers, since it was not a key plank of Republicans' campaigns in 2010.

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