It was a bad winter for utility bills, power outages - and for potholes. In the Carolinas alone, AAA cited a 100 percent increase in tire- and wheel-related repairs for the first three months of the year.

Those pothole-related expenses include the cost of repairing ruptured tires, bent wheel rims and skewed alignments.

Deteriorating road conditions generally mean more out-of-pocket costs for motorists.

For the state Department of Transportation, faced with the extra winter-related expense of roadside tree removal, it was just more bad news.

Already, the DOT struggles to catch up on long-delayed road maintenance problems. That's largely because of the Legislature's unwillingness to provide a sufficient source of revenue to sustain the expense.

The state's gas tax - one of the lowest in the nation - hasn't been increased since 1987, despite repeated reminders that our roads need major work.

The latest estimate put the shortfall at a staggering $30 billion over the next 20 years.

Of course, the argument for increasing the gas tax is that it effectively serves as a user fee. And as a user fee, it ought to provide a level of revenue that enables necessary road repairs and improvements to be made.

Clearly that isn't the case in South Carolina.

And if motorists don't pay to improve highways at the fuel pump, crumbling highway infrastructure will exact additional repair costs on their vehicles.

Think about that the next time you can't avoid the gaping maw of a jagged pothole.