For anyone who knew the late Joe Rattigan, there’s a certain sadness associated with the plan to sell the downtown state office building that was named in his honor. In his lifetime, Rattigan epitomized the best of public service – as attorney, senator, appeals court justice, community leader and wise man. Whether selling the building would improve the state’s dire financial condition, the proposed sale and leaseback testify to a government that is in trouble and surrendering the capacity to help people in need.

Joe’s son, Michael Rattigan, told Staff Writer Guy Kovner last year that his Dad would have supported the sale if it meant fewer cuts in programs serving children, the elderly and the disabled. “He would have found those (cuts) unconscionable,” Michael Rattigan explained. Anyone who knew Joe knows this to be true. He was devoted to the cause of a more compassionate society.

But this week, for the first time, came allegations that the proposed sale of  11 state buildings would prove to be a money loser for the state and for state social programs.

As the state began to receive bids to purchase the buildings, the Sacramento Bee on Thursday reported – here –  that four members of panels that oversee state buildings were removed in recent weeks because they objected to the plan.

And, today, the Bee reports – here –  that State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and State Controller John Chiang are joining the chorus of critics. The same story also reports that the Service Employees International Union commissioned a study by prominent economist Chris Thornberg, who concluded that the deal would cost the state more than $1.5 billion over time.

Is this a smart deal, or the governor and the state Legislature creating one more way to borrow against the future? Schwarzenegger administration officials now know that any agreement will be subject to intense scrutiny.