Teachers and government workers covered by the state’s retirement plan face a difficult choice if they’re near the present retirement age of 62.

That’s because if Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed changes to the system pass the Legislature intact, they may have to ante up about $8,000 more a year for health insurance between the time they retire and when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

The proposals, which if passed would take effect on Jan. 1, 2012, are leading almost 2,000 retirement-eligible state employees and teachers to consider pulling the plug before then.

That is a logical decision for them, and the budget plan anticipates that will be the choice of a substantial number of state workers.

State fiscal director Sawin Millett says the state isn’t out to harm anyone. He expressed interest in trying to find a way to let people retire and then come back to work while allowing them to keep their health coverage until they turn 65, to avoid “the risk of losing a lot of institutional knowledge.”

Nevertheless, he and Gov. LePage are serious about the need to rein in spending and hold the line on taxes. They also are serious about the new retirement rules that would require workers to contribute 2 percent more of their pay toward their pensions and freeze cost-of-living increases for current retirees for three years.

All of that is projected to save hundreds of millions over the next two years, although coverage for the estimated 1,000 teachers who may retire earlier than planned will cost the state $2 million more than the current plan.

People certainly do make plans as they approach retirement, but complaints that these changes are somehow “unfair” miss the mark.

Eligible state workers and teachers have time to retire under the present system and are not being forced into the new one. Regarding the freeze on retirees’ raises, Social Security recipients have also gone two years without raises due to the low rate of inflation.

Given the state’s continued revenue shortfalls, high tax rates and continued poor business climate, it makes sense to try to save money in long-term expenditures. Considering that senior workers can be replaced with less senior employees – or not replaced at all – the governor’s budget is a reasonable attempt to address an otherwise intractable issue.