Last week saw the conclusion of a special legislative session to settle New Mexico's budget - for the time being. We can now pause to reflect on how we resolve our state's differences, whether they be tied to legislation, community concerns or business needs. We must solve problems by working together across party lines, across regional lines, across races and gender.

Collaboration can be difficult. It requires everyone to operate at a high level. It requires ingenious solutions. But cooperation never requires giving up one's principles. History reminds us that the members of the U. S. Continental Congress were highly principled and brought to the table strikingly different views from one another. Despite those differences, these leaders produced our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Here in New Mexico, we have many organizations advancing nonpartisan collaboration. Some of the best examples operate outside of direct politics. The Albuquerque Hispano Chamber, Sandia Science and Tech Park, Kirtland Partnership Committee and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce are a few groups that ask strong Democrats, Republicans and independents to work together for the common good. And of course, the public policy organization New Mexico First was founded by U. S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici for this very purpose.

When we do not have bipartisan collaboration, people lose faith in a brighter future. We get policies that change with the blowing wind. And we fail to move the needle on key reforms that can improve our quality of life such as education, job creation and sustainable healthcare.

I urge New Mexico's elected leaders - and those of us who are active in our communities and the private sector - to act in ways that put our common interests first. Each of us needs to remind people in our party to treat each other with respect and as dignified human beings. Together, with bipartisanship and honest collaboration, we can work together to improve the lives of all New Mexicans.

Sherman McCorkle will receive the Spirit of Bipartisanship Lifetime Achievement Award on June 7 at First Forum, a biennial event organized by the public policy organization New Mexico First. Additional information is available at nmfirst. org.