Connecticut received more than 5,655 paid-leave benefit applications in December, ahead of the Jan. 1 start date for granting paid family and medical leave for eligible private-sector employees under a new state mandate. That rush to apply for benefits has renewed fears about the paid-leave program\u2019s long-term viability and the ability of small businesses to manage the state\u2019s latest workplace mandate. \u201cI don\u2019t want to minimize the impact on small employers who\u2019ve never done this before, but it\u2019s not going to feel like it\u2019s just a switch for them,\u201d Andrea Barton Reeves, CEO of Connecticut\u2019s Paid Leave Authority, told an employer conference put on by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association in 2020. \u201cFor smaller employers, this is an entirely new world.\u201d The paid-leave program applies to almost all private-sector employers. State government is exempt from the mandate, which allows up to 12 weeks paid leave for employees to care for their own or any extended family member\u2019s illness or injury. Workers have paid a 0.5 percent tax from each paycheck since Jan. 1, 2021, to fund the program. CBIA has raised concerns about the program\u2019s long-term solvency since the mandate was first proposed. Why? Because the math doesn\u2019t work. An employee earning a median family income of $78,450 contributes $392 annually to the paid-leave fund and is eligible to receive up to $9,360 in yearly benefits. At that level, the contributions of 24 workers are needed to pay the benefits of a single person. The paid-leave authority projects 85,000 annual claims. So, if every one of those 85,000 claimants makes the median income and collects full paid-leave benefits, over 2 million employees must pay into the system to fund their claims. But as of November 2021, there were only 1.39 million private-sector workers in the state. Mark my words: At some point, the fund will run out of money, followed by inevitable demands that employers contribute to the program. It has already happened in other states, despite those states offering less generous benefits than Connecticut. Perhaps the most troubling aspect is that lawmakers ignored the fragility of the state\u2019s economy when narrowly approving the paid-leave program in 2019, one of an astonishing 28 workplace mandates passed by the legislature since 2016. Each of those mandates originated in the General Assembly\u2019s Labor and Public Employees Committee. They represent just a fraction of the harmful bills proposed by committee leadership during that time. CBIA opposed over 75 harmful bills approved by the committee, invariably along party lines, during the past six years, with most failing to win full legislative approval. An estimated 75 additional proposals did not advance out of the committee. Those mandates were proposed and debated during a period of anemic job and GDP growth in Connecticut, reflecting a troubling disconnect between legislative policymaking and the state\u2019s critical economic needs. A review of the years between 2016 and 2019 \u2014 before the pandemic fully upended the economy \u2014 shows that Connecticut\u2019s jobless rate was the country\u2019s highest or tied for the highest in 29 of those 48 months. Job growth was a woeful 0.36 percent \u2014 a net 6,100 jobs \u2014 over those four years, just a fraction of the New England region\u2019s 4.7 percent growth. The U.S. added jobs at a 3.8 percent rate during that time. Connecticut\u2019s economy was also largely stagnant from 2016 through 2019. GDP was unchanged in 2016, grew 0.9 percent in 2017 and 2019, and just 0.4 percent in 2018 \u2014 well below the performance of the regional and national economies. Personal income growth in the state \u2014 another key sign of economic health \u2014 also trails the region and the country. A Pew Charitable Trusts report showed that if it were not for unemployment benefits and federal assistance, Connecticut\u2019s personal income growth would have declined in 2020. This slew of mandates makes a challenging situation even tougher \u2014 further driving up the high cost of doing business, dumping administrative burdens on smaller employers, and reinforcing tired old perceptions about the state\u2019s business climate. Connecticut should be making it easier \u2014 not more difficult \u2014 to create jobs here, to attract and keep companies here. The 2022 legislative session begins next month with reasons for Connecticut employers to be optimistic. Thanks to the 2017 bipartisan budget compromise that implemented an initial set of fiscal reforms, we have made unexpected progress toward resolving the long-term issues that held us captive to endless cycles of deficits and tax hikes for years. Those reforms also helped improve Connecticut\u2019s rankings in national business climate polls in almost every category except the cost of doing business \u2014 an area directly influenced by the state\u2019s tax and labor policies. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisles are talking seriously about implementing long-overdue tax relief. It\u2019s also time they address the out-of-control torrent of workplace mandates that do nothing but harm Connecticut\u2019s growth and reputation. Eric Gjede is vice president of public policy with CBIA, the state\u2019s largest business organization.